Devin A. Bickham Sr. and his son Devin Jr. were found guilty May 14, of the 2011 ambush murder of Austin resident Chervon Alexander in a parking lot in River Forest.
Because the father’s defense involved accusing his son of committing the murder without his participation, the two men were tried by separate juries.
Bickham Sr.’s eight-man, four-woman jury, which included the jury foreman among three African Americans, took just under four hours to reach a verdict of first degree murder. Jurors also found that Bickham Sr. committed that murder in a “cold, calculating and premeditated manner.”
Bickham Sr. stood motionless next to his attorneys as jury foreman Louis Towers passed the verdict sheets over to the judge, and remained expressionless as the court clerk read the verdicts. Around two hours earlier a second jury, which got Devin Bickham Jr.’s case just before noon, found him guilty.
The alleged gunman in the case, Cardell Taylor, will be tried later this year.
After court dismissed just after 8 p.m., members of Chervon Alexander’s family clapped as prosecutors walked up to them.
A member of the Alexander group said the family did not want to comment publicly at the moment.
The elder Bickham took the witness stand in his own defense on May 13.
Murder plot ‘mastermind’
Bickham’s defense attorney, Michael Clancy, used his client’s testimony to attack prosecution contentions that he masterminded a plot to kill Alexander in order to avoid going through with a planned August wedding, despite not having started divorce proceedings with his wife of 12 years.
Clancy walked the senior Bickham through testimony that implicated his son as the main suspect, a young man angry at his father’s plans to marry Alexander and leave the state.
On a police interrogation video, Bickham Jr. stated that on the night of July 11, 2011 he was directed by his passenger, Cardell Taylor, to park across the street from Dominican University’s Priory Park campus parking lot, and that he watched as Taylor walked across Division Street into the parking lot. He said he then heard numerous gunshots, and subsequently saw Taylor “trot” back to the car, enter the front passenger door and say, “Go! Drive, go!”
But under cross-examination by assistant state’s attorney James McKay, Bickham struggled to explain numerous questions, including why he didn’t recognize his own car as it fled the murder scene, and why he didn’t recognize his own son or a long-time neighbor and alleged friend at a street line up minutes after the shooting.
He was also asked how his own gun was found in the car his son was driving.
McKay also hammered away at what he characterized as the inconsistency of Bickham Sr.’s wanting to be with Alexander alone in the park to have sex with her, and his numerous text and phone contacts with his son in the hour before the shooting, letting him know where he’d be — a son, McKay stressed, who was supposedly angry about his father’s relationship with Alexander.
McKay and his fellow assistant States Attorney Russell Baker would hammer at the same points in their closing and rebuttal closing arguments Wednesday.
Bickham Sr. had absolutely no blood splatter or glass shards on his body or clothes, despite Bickham’s contention that he was either leaning over and touching Alexander or mere inches away at the moment the first bullet shattered the car window and struck her.
He did, however, have gunshot residue on the back of his left hand.
The closing arguments were intense and at times personal between the attorneys.
Russell Baker analogized the murder scheme to a theatrical or movie production, one he said the senior Bickham controlled.
Bickham Jr. and Taylor, he said, were the father’s “cast of killers.”
Both sides agreed that Bickham was immoral and a liar who deceived his wife and more than a dozen girlfriends, with whom he had six children.
Clancy characterized the prosecution’s theory of the crime as “stupid,” and argued the jury needed to set aside any moral disdain and judge Bickham Sr. on the evidence, which, he insisted, did not implicate the father in Alexander’s murder.
But McKay and Baker relentlessly attacked the father’s honesty and credibility as evidence of his untrustworthiness.
“The defendant is presumed to be innocent,” McKay said. “He is not presumed honest. This man, who has been lying all his adult life — can you trust him?”
Clancy argued a series of text messages between the father and son in the 90 minutes before Alexander’s death proved nothing of an alleged conspiracy between them. “They want to read into the texts,” Clancy said, asking, “Where is the evidence (Bickham Sr.) knew what (his son) was up to.”
McKay in turn ridiculed Clancy’s defense argument, saying “He can’t talk to you about the mountain of evidence that buries his client.” McKay said the texts showed a clear trail of communication between father and son regarding where he was going with Alexander and when.
“The preconceived plan is shown in no uncertain terms by the text messages between father and son,” McKay argued.
Text messages between 8:33 and 9:54 p.m. on July 11, 2011, he said, “were innocuous of themselves.”
But taken together, he argued, they showed a road map tracking the father and son’s movements the night of Chervon Alexander’s murder. McKay told jurors that Bickham Sr. was in control of the murder scheme from start to finish, but could not control the quick and effective reaction by local law enforcement.