Trial begins for man accused in slaying over Air Jordans

HOUSTON – Daron Taylor may have been the last person to be arrested out of the four on trial for murder, but prosecutors say he is certainly not least in his role in the death of Joshua Woods.

"Unlike Joshua Woods and Godwin Matthew, the complainants in this case, Daron Taylor and his friends were not there to buy shoes, they were there for targets," prosecutor Coby Leslie said in opening statements.

The defense declined to make an opening argument.

In December 2012, the new Air Jordan shoes were released.

Woods and Matthew were in the frenzied crowd hoping to get a couple of pairs from the Willowbrook Mall.

Prosecutors says they were followed on their way back to Matthew's house. The pair pulled up, parked and Matthew attempted to drop off his shoes, but he forgot his keys.

By that time, Woods had slid over to the driver's seat and prosecutors say a group of men, including Taylor, approached him.

Matthew testified Wednesday and recalled one of the men saying: "Give up the shoes."

"Joshua Woods was sitting in Godwin's car and tries to drive away. Neal Bland at 5 or 6 feet away raises the gun and fires and fires and fires as the car loses control and crashes into the neighbor's house," Leslie said.

Prosecutors say Taylor, who was 16 years old in 2012, fired shots from the back seat of the suspects' car.

Prosecutors played an interview police had with Taylor and he admitted to firing the gun. However, it's unclear what direction he fired it in.  He says he fired it at the sky, but prosecutors allege Taylor fired it in Woods' direction.

"The four would-be robbers panic, jump in the car and drive off as Daron Taylor says, 'Why did you even do the crime without taking the shoes?'" Leslie added in his opening statement.
Joshua Woods' family was in the courtroom Wednesday, the second of four trials they will have to face.

Taylor's mother was also there, and in his corner.

"I hope they have leniency on him, he's not the trigger man, he was with him," said Deborah Ann Perry, Taylor's mother.

Surprisingly, Dazie Williams, Woods' mother, is in Taylor's corner. Since 2012 Williams has chosen the path of ultimate forgiveness.

"She pulled out a piece of paper and had listed every defendant's name on it, their date of birth," said family pastor E.A. Deckard. "She is celebrating their birthdays. When their birthdays come, she prays for them."

Through Deckard, Williams said that if Taylor was found guilty, she'd be there to hold his mother's hand.

It's important to make clear: Taylor didn't fire the fatal shot that killed Woods.

It was Bland, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole in February.

Before this recent trial, Taylor turned down a plea deal of 55 years. Instead, he faces life in prison if convicted. But because Taylor was only 16 at the time, he will be eligible for parole.