Little Rock man's ex-girlfriend allowed to testify in murder trial

A Pulaski County circuit judge has cleared the way for the former girlfriend of a homeless Little Rock man to testify against him at his capital murder trial later this month.

Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for 36-year-old Ronnie Collins over accusations he killed Jonathan Edward Brown at Brown's South Valentine Street home in May 2015. He's scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 25.

On Monday, Judge Barry Sims rejected defense arguments that Collins' former girlfriend, who told police she saw Collins shoot Brown, should be barred from testifying at trial.

Defense attorney Cheryl Barnard that Little Rock detectives' interrogation techniques appeared to have pushed the woman, 32-year-old Lakessha Jackson of Malvern, into naming Collins as the killer. Barnard said investigators did not do enough to assure Jackson was able to identify Collins as the shooter.

But Sims sided with deputy prosecutor Amanda Fields, who said police had followed proper procedure, after hearing testimony from both the detective, Tommy Hudson, and Jackson. Collins did not testify.

Jackson told the judge she'd known Collins for at least 42 days before Brown was killed. She said they'd met in a pharmaceutical testing program and had occasionally lived together during those weeks.

Jackson, who was not asked about the slaying, identified a written statement to police as being in her handwriting, and pointed out Collins when asked to identify him for the judge.

"It looks like he's sitting over there," she said.

Hudson testified that he learned shortly after the slaying that Jackson, whom he'd never met before, knew the killer's name. After being told the woman was still in the neighborhood, Hudson said, he and another detective searched the area for at least an hour before finding Jackson, based on the description he'd been given of her, walking in the 2900 block of Maple Street.

Jackson recognized a driver's license photograph of Collins as "N.O." and told police that was his nickname based on Collins' hometown of New Orleans, Hudson testified. She said they had been dating for some time, Hudson said.

Jackson said she and Collins had breakfast at a homeless shelter the day of the killing and that she saw him shoot Brown, Hudson told the judge.

Collins was arrested about 17 hours after the killing and has been jailed ever since.

Police had been called to the Valentine Street home by Brown's roommate, who said he had been asleep in his room but was awakened by the sounds of Brown arguing with a visitor to the home he knew only as "N.O." just before a series of gunshots.

The man said he left his bedroom and saw Collins walking out of the house with a pistol in his hand. The wounded Brown told him that "N.O." had shot him, the man said.

The roommate told police he went to a neighbor's home to call for an ambulance when he saw Collins, with a gun, go back into the residence just before more shots were fired inside. Collins then walked out of the home again, the witness told police.

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Metro on 10/12/2017

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