January 30, 2014 10:14:11 AM
JACKSON -- A woman charged with depraved-heart murder in the illegal cosmetic injection death of another woman had received the same kind of shots in her buttocks more than 10 times and didn't know they could be deadly, her lawyer said Wednesday during opening statements.
Defense lawyer Kevin Camp made the statement in the trial of Natasha Stewart, an adult entertainer also known as Pebbelz Da Model. Stewart, 40, of suburban Memphis, is on trial in Mississippi in the death of 37-year-old Karima Gordon of Atlanta.
Authorities say Stewart charged a $200 fee to refer Gordon to Tracey Lynn Garner, an interior and floral decorator who is accused of injecting Gordon's buttocks with silicone at a house in Jackson.
Camp said Garner had given similar injections to his client more than 10 times and that Stewart didn't know they could cause serious harm.
"She's not guilty of all these charges," Camp told the jury in Hinds County Circuit Court.
The charge of depraved-heart murder, a legal term for an action that demonstrates a "callous disregard for human life" and results in death, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Stewart also faces charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Garner, who is charged with depraved-heart murder in the deaths of Gordon and another woman, Marilyn Hale of Selma, Ala., is scheduled for trial in March.
Stewart was an entertainer and had an adult website that mostly focused on her large buttocks.
Prosecutor Patrick Beasley said during his opening statement that Gordon wanted to emulate Stewart and reached out to her. Gordon and a friend flew to New York to meet Stewart at a club in February 2012, and Stewart later arranged for Gordon and her friend to meet Garner, Beasley said.
"This case boils down to one thing, and it's greed," Beasley said.
The friend said she traveled with Gordon to Jackson in March 2012. Both planned to get the injections, but the friend backed out because Garner's appearance frightened her, according to testimony Wednesday. Authorities initially identified Garner as a man, Morris Garner, but her attorney said Garner, who was born male, had sex reassignment surgery. Garner's lawyers have declined to comment on the case due to a gag order.
Stewart, wearing what appeared to be an orange wig with a black-and-white striped dress, became emotional at one point, wiping her nose with a tissue.
With the jury out of the courtroom on Wednesday, Gordon's friend testified that Stewart told them Garner was a nurse, which prosecutors say is not true.
The woman also said that Gordon became sick immediately after Garner performed the $1,500 procedure, and that Gordon called Stewart for advice. She said Stewart told Gordon not to tell doctors that she had the shots if she were to seek medical attention. Gordon died a few days later in a Georgia hospital.
Camp said during opening statements that Stewart told Gordon to seek medical attention when she became ill.
Testimony is to resume Thursday morning.