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Brother’s Testimony Confuses Hawkins Murder Trial

Times Staff Writer

The murder trial of James Hawkins Jr. took a confusing turn Tuesday when his brother took the stand and alternately confirmed and denied previous taped statements in which, the prosecutor said, he had implicated the defendant in the shooting of a gang member.

At various points in his testimony, Newton Hawkins, 38, denied having seen his brother take a shotgun from a van parked outside the Hawkins family’s market in Watts and shoot Anttwon Thomas, 19, on Sept. 11, 1983.

At other times, the witness agreed that he had seen the defendant get the shotgun, just as Deputy Dist. Atty. Harvey Giss told the court that Newton Hawkins had previously stated in a taped interview with authorities last February.

Called on His Own

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Newton Hawkins, Giss said, had contacted authorities on his own to testify in the case.

Giss, appearing somewhat frustrated by the turn of events, finally asked Newton Hawkins whether it was his intent “to mislead the prosecution.”

“No it wasn’t,” the witness replied.

Giss then asked whose idea it was to mislead the prosecution.

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Newton Hawkins replied, “My own idea.”

“We have gone back and forth like a Ping-Pong match,” Giss said, summarizing the day’s testimony.

James Hawkins Jr., 41, is accused of having shot Thomas several minutes after an exchange of words with gang members outside the family market and video arcade in Watts.

The shooting precipitated a series of violent reprisals by other gang members, which drew national attention when Mayor Tom Bradley and police officials held a press conference to voice their support for the embattled family.

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Other Evidence Emerged

James Hawkins Jr. was not charged until several months later, when further evidence concerning the shooting surfaced.

Newton Hawkins’ taped statement to authorities was not made until several months after his brother had been ordered to stand trial for murder. The brother told authorities that he was working in the family store the day of the shooting.

About 10 members of the Hawkins family attended Tuesday’s Los Angeles Superior Court session. They expressed anger at prosecutors for placing Newton Hawkins on the witness stand.

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“He’s not mentally well,” family patriarch James Hawkins Sr., 75, said of his son. “He doesn’t know what he’s telling.”

The elder Hawkins asserted that his son agreed to testify because authorities had promised to “make a deputy sheriff out of him.”

Giss, asked about the elder Hawkins’ allegation, bristled, “They’re as sick as he is if they believe that.”

Not Considered Damaging

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The prosecutor said Newton Hawkins’ testimony should not severely damage his case because he will also call several other witnesses to implicate James Hawkins Jr.

Although prosecutors contend that James Hawkins Jr. used his own weapon to shoot Thomas “in cold blood,” Hawkins family members have argued publicly that the weapon belonged to the victim.

Defense attorney Stephen L. Schwartz had little comment on Tuesday’s testimony, except to say, “I think he (Newton Hawkins) said he was disabled.”

Newton Hawkins testified Tuesday that he had suffered a back injury several years ago when he was in the military service. The man, who has been moved away from his family by authorities because he was testifying against his brother, said later that his mind is not always clear because of his use of prescribed medications.

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