Search Continues for AWOL Murder Convict

February 16th, 2010 by

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A recently convicted murderer is on the run tonight. His attorney says he ran away from the Shelby County Courthouse just before his verdict was read in his first degree murder case. Dearick Stokes was on trial for a 2008 murder.

While his attorney says his client maintained his innocence in the shooting, a jury was the ultimate decision maker. But Stokes disappeared before ever learning if they found him innocent or guilty.

He is now a wanted man for fleeing from this Shelby County courtroom on Saturday.

“Jury went out to deliberate around 12 o’clock, or 12:30pm, they came back around 3:30pm or so and said they had a question,” says Marvin Ballin, defense attorney.

About a half an hour later, everyone was called back into the courtroom because jurors had reached their verdict.

Since Stokes was out on bond, he wasn’t confined inside the courtroom. Well, just before the verdict was read, he asked deputies to use the bathroom, which is just a few hundred feet away. Well no one has seen him since.

“It is so rare in Shelby County that people do this.” Ballin says in his more than 4 decades of practicing law, this has only happened to him once, “I had no indication he was going to run, none, had I done so, I would have let the sheriff know.”

Stokes was being tried for a July 2008 shooting. The victim was found slumped over the steering wheel of a car in the middle of Warren Street.

“He always professed his innocence, jury saw it another way.”

The jury found Stokes guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison, but stokes is on the run and now, he faces even more charges.

“I was a little aggravated. It hurts the next fellow when you try to get him out on bond. What I’m concerned about is there may be a trickle down effect, a judge may be very hesitant in setting a bond.”

Because of this situation, Sheriff Mark Luttrell is expected to examine the department’s court room procedures this week.

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