Was the killing of LSU basketball player Wayde Sims in 2018 murdered or justified killing? A prosecutor told a jury Thursday that it was the former, while one of Dyteon Simpson’s attorneys claimed it was the latter.
Simpson, 23, of Baker, is accused of shooting Sims, 20, in the face with a 9mm pistol on September 28, 2018, after Sims intervened during a fist fight to defend a friend outside a fraternity party right at Southern University campus, authorities have said.
In her opening statement to an East Baton Rouge Parish jury, prosecutor Jermaine Guillory said Simpson was among a group of four to six people who aggressively confronted Sims and two people with him as they walked along Harding Boulevard just after midnight.
Guillory said one in the group of four to six people struck the first blow and a street fight ensued. After a Sims man’s friend was beaten by Simpson, Sims came to his friend’s aid and beat Simpson. Seconds later, Simpson “unfairly” fired a single shot, killing Sims, prosecutors said.
Guillory said the Sims were “shot down without justification and without provocation.” He called Simpson the aggressor.
But Hunter Thomas, one of Simpson’s attorneys, disputed that characteristic. He described the 6-foot-6 Sims as the aggressor and the 5-foot-8 Simpson as a man who defended himself.
“The reasoning was definitely there,” he told the jury. “Provocation was definitely there.”
Thomas claimed that Sims, who he said was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, was not an “innocent spectator” and did not try to break a fight.
“Does this incident happen without Wayde being affected?” he asked.
East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. William “Beau” Clark, one of eight witnesses summoned by the state Thursday, testified that Sims had marijuana in his system at the time of his autopsy, and his blood alcohol concentration was 0.052%. In Louisiana, a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher is considered a presumed evidence of drunk driving.
Thomas said Sims continued to move toward Simpson, even after Simpson pointed his gun and that Simpson did not fire, “until he was backed into a corner.”
“Dyteon has the right to defend itself,” he added. “His use of force was justified.”
Clark testified that Sims was shot in the chin and the bullet got stuck in his spinal cord near the base of the skull. That area, he said, controls breathing and movement of arms and legs.
Simpson risks a mandatory life sentence in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, the charge against him.
Investigators said they received many tips after releasing a video of the fight and asking for public help before an arrest was made. The video shows about eight men on the street fighting, with three or four of them throwing punches. Two men who are eventually identified as Sims and Simpson break out of the group, and a single shot is then fired.
DNA evidence taken from a pair of glasses found at the scene matched a DNA sample that Simpson gave to investigators, authorities said. The glasses were struck by the shooter’s face during the fight, according to testimony contained in an arrest report. Juries were shown pictures of these glasses.
Simpson was arrested in Sims’ murder while driving in the front passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car the following day. A 9mm pistol with an extended magazine found under the seat matched the bullet from the Sims’ body and a grenade casing found from the shooting scene at Harding, firearms investigator Rusty Day testified Thursday. Day is employed by the Baton Rouge Police Department, but is affiliated with the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab.
Sims was killed a few hours before what would have been his first official training in his youth years at LSU. He played at University High before playing at LSU. His father, Wayne Sims, played basketball at LSU under then-coach Dale Brown in the late 1980s.
“Do not make it a popularity contest,” Thomas told the jury.
The trial is set to resume Friday in District Judge Will Jordan’s 19th courtroom.