GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Opening remarks and witness testimony were heard Tuesday in the trial of the man accused of shooting and killing a Kentwood elderly couple last year.
Javonte Higgins, 23, stands accused of murdering David and Vivian Bouwman — both in their 80s — during a middle of the night home invasion. Higgins was arrested days later near Chicago.
Monday, a 14-person jury was selected to hear the trial that is expected to last at least a week. After the case is presented, two jurors will be selected at random and dismissed because only 12 can deliberate for a verdict.
Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Becker told jurors that the case he will present hinges on circumstantial evidence. He says there is no “direct evidence,” like fingerprints or DNA that links Higgins to the murder scene.
Tuesday, the trial started with opening statements. Becker said Javonte Higgins admitted “some people got shot” to friends. Higgins’ DNA was found in the bucket that was used for gas to burn the Bouwmans’ car.
Becker said “there’s no physical evidence that was found at the scene at the house,” but concluded his opening remarks by saying, “[Higgins] did this crime. Find him guilty of what he is charged with.”
Inside woodtv.com: Photos of the murder trial of Javonte Higgins
Higgins’ defense attorney Valerie Foster explained reasonable doubt to the jury.
“The evidence will fail to show many things,” she said.
Foster says there are “inconsistencies” in the stories of witnesses who will testify against Higgins.
Despite objections from the defense, the jury saw graphic images the Bouwmans’ bodies Tuesday. The Bouwmans’ family members left the courtroom before the pictures were shown.
Prosecutors used those images to detail what happened in their final moments. Officers testified that David Bouwman was shot first when he apparently startled Higgins after he broke in.
After, prosecutors say, Vivian Bouwman came into the area and was shot once in the forehead and again after she fell to the ground.
Also Tuesday, a woman testified about noticing the Bouwmans’ burning Cadillac at the Wyoming apartment complex where it was ditched. Then Dominique Beal took the stand and testified about noticing the burned car. Beal says he saw a man walking away from the vehicle. Beal is incarcerated for not showing up when subpoenaed in regards to this case.
In the late afternoon, the jury saw surveillance video from the gas station where prosecutors say Higgins got the gas to set the Bouwmans’ car on fire. It shows that Higgins has a limp — something they say is evident in snow tracks at the crime scene.
During jury selection, Higgins’ defense attorney said she did not plan to call any witnesses to the stand though it’s not clear whether or not Higgins will exercise his right to testify in his own defense. Higgins cooperated and seemed to be actively involved in selecting the jury for his murder trial.
At least one of the Bouwmans’ children is slated to testify during the trial and other family members are expected to be there as testimony unfolds, the family said.
Becker also said prosecutors will be calling Higgins’ mother Dora Baker to the stand. During the trial Tuesday, she was in court seated behind Higgins.
If convicted of the two murder charges, Higgins will serve the rest of his life in prison.