Judge in capital murder trial issues arrest warrant for comedian

By Lawrence Buser
Posted April 11, 2013 at 1:17 p.m., updated April 12, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

In what might seem to be an odd setting for a comedian, Lester Bibbs is wanted in a capital murder trial.

A judge has issued an arrest warrant for the Memphis comedian who is being sought as a witness by defense attorneys for a former death row inmate on trial for killing a police officer in 1997.

Bibbs has been unavailable to the defense since he testified last year in the capital murder retrial of Timothy McKinney, telling the jury McKinney was not the shooter of off-duty police officer Don Williams.

The officer was working as private security at a Frayser comedy club where Bibbs was headlining.

McKinney was convicted and sentenced to death in 1999, but in 2010 an appeals court awarded him a new trial after finding that his defense attorneys did not properly investigate the case or adequately represent him.

The retrial in November was deadlocked at 11-1 for guilty and this week a third trial began.

McKinney’s new defense attorneys, Gerald Skahan and Marty McAfee, told Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee Thursday that their investigators went to Tunica Wednesday night where Bibbs had a performance scheduled at the Funnybone Comedy Club, but were turned away and were told the show was canceled.

Williams, 37, a veteran police officer who was assigned to city schools, was shot in the neck and critically wounded around 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, 1997, outside of Crumpy’s Comedy Club at North Hollywood and James Road.

He died about a month later.

Bibbs testified in April of last year that he was “positive” the shooter was someone other than McKinney. He said he was smoking marijuana in a car about 30 feet away from the shooting.

Another witness unavailable this week is Officer Frank Lee, who died of natural causes about five months ago. His recorded testimony from last year’s trial, in which he identified McKinney as the shooter, was played for jurors this week.

Lee said McKinney had been a problem all night for the off-duty officers and that he, Lee, was standing next to Williams when McKinney shot him in the neck. Lee said he exchanged gunshots with McKinney before the gunman escaped.

McKinney’s name, address and date of birth were written on a slip of paper found in Williams’ pocket after the shooting.

Bibbs has been on the national comedy scene for some 20 years and has appeared on “Def Comedy Jam” and written for other comedians, including the late Bernie Mac.
© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved.


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