Shreveport man found guilty of lesser charge in deadly downtown brawl

Jury finds Demerius Smith guilty of lesser charge, negligent homicide
Robert "JaRod" Farmer (Source: Facebook)
Robert "JaRod" Farmer (Source: Facebook)
Darrell Phillips, 27 (Source: Shreveport Police Department)
Darrell Phillips, 27 (Source: Shreveport Police Department)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Caddo Parish jury has found a Shreveport man guilty of negligent homicide in connection with a deadly downtown brawl.

Demerius Smith, 23, was on tried on a charge of manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old Robert "Jarod" Farmer. The jury's verdict on the lesser charge indicates the state was not able to prove that Smith's actions were unjustifiable and intentional, but that they were able to convince the jury that his actions did cause Farmer's death through negligence.

Farmer was found unconscious in the street near the Texas Street bridge early on the morning of September 9, 2012. Farmer had been struck in the face during a fight outside a bar in the 500 block of Commerce Street. The impact caused him to fall and strike his head on the pavement. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died four days later.

Demerius Smith, 23, and 27-year-old Darrell Phillips were arrested and charged with second degree battery. The charge against Smith was upgraded to second degree murder following Farmer's death, but a Caddo Parish grand jury later returned an indictment for a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Prosecutors say the fatal encounter was prompted by jealousy. Farmer allegedly asked about a female, saying, "Hey, is that Ashley?" in the moments before a verbal argument ensued, which turned into a physical fight that did not initially involve Smith. However, Caddo Assistant District Attorney Geya Prudhomme told the jury that it was Smith's choice to get involved that resulted in Farmer's death.

Farmer's mom, Annette Dunlap arrived in court every day surrounded by about a dozen family members. She had surprisingly kind things to say about Smith just a couple of hours before the jury reached it's verdict. 

"Well my heart goes out to him, my heart goes out to his family but we're talking about my son who is not here. And to be honest, I would trade places with them in a heart beat," said Annette Dunlap.

Farmer only had one bruise on his eye, and the encounter is described as a single hit that resulted in Farmer falling backwards. However, Prudhomme asserts that Smith hit Farmer with such force that Farmer's brain was bruised, causing hemorrhaging.

Prudhomme also reminded the jury that he was indicted by a grand jury. "We didn't just make this stuff up."

Defense attorney David Williams is seeking to cast doubt on the assertion that Smith punched Farmer while Farmer was standing by peacefully and not fighting. He points out that only one witness testified that he was hit while just standing there. Williams believes that Farmer was being aggressive and it was Smith who was being passive. However, prosecutors assert that Farmer's death was not the result of self defense.

Both sides rested their cases late Friday morning in Caddo District Court, and closing arguments wrapped up around 3 p.m. The jury deliberated for just under 2 hours before reaching the verdict.

Dunlap said she had supported the manslaughter charge because she felt that it met the legal definition of what took place that night.

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