Fairhope resident Bruce Keishawn Salter, 26, was acquitted of capital murder charges Feb. 3 after spending 954 days in jail awaiting trial for his connection to the 2013 murder of another Fairhope man, Donald Howard.
After a seven-day jury trial at the beginning of this year, a Baldwin County jury returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict in Salter’s case, which included charges of murder during a robbery, murder by a deadly weapon and tampering with physical evidence. Salter was originally arrested on Oct. 8, 2013, and indicted on six counts, including capital murder and tampering with evidence.
Howard died Jan. 14, 2013, after being shot multiple times and robbed of money, a cell phone, a pocket knife and a red bandana.
Last year attorney Chase Dearman filed a federal complaint against Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon seeking injunctive relief against the capital murder charges Salter faced, arguing Dixon did not honor a proffer agreement with Salter for his cooperation in building a murder case against Immanuel Charles Jenkins, who was later found guilty of Howard’s murder.
The complaint, which is pending in federal court, says the agreement was breached on June 24, 2013, when Salter was arrested and charged with capital murder. The District Attorney’s office believes Salter did not tell the whole truth during the investigation.
Salter was alleged to have driven Howard to the 7700 block of Parker Road, where Howard was killed.
Dearman said Salter and Howard were riding to a different location when Jenkins called and told them to come to the home on Parker Road. Dearman said they pulled the car up beside a vehicle parked in front of the location, and Salter jumped out to urinate. According to Dearman, while Salter was out of the car, Jenkins shot Howard five to six times. Dearman said Salter did not see the killing but did see Howard slumped over in the car.
Dearman said Jenkins pointed a gun at Salter, telling him to get Howard out of the car, at which time they took the man’s body to the back of the residence. When the pair noticed Howard was still alive, Dearman said Jenkins fired a final shot to the back of his head. Salter took a red bandana and $24 out of Howard’s pocket and Jenkins took a phone and pocket knife.
Shortly after the killing, Salter contacted Dearman to tell the story, and they relayed the information to the Baldwin County District Attorney’s office. Investigators used information provided by Salter to arrest and charge Jenkins in the case. Dearman said had Salter not come forward, investigators would not have known a crime occurred.
Dearman said throughout the life of Dixon’s proffer agreement with Salter, his client was truthful and helpful to investigators. However, Dearman acknowledged that in Salter’s initial interview, he did not tell the investigators about the $24 he took from Howard’s pocket and the final shot to Howard’s head.
In trial, prosecutors argued Salter knowingly set up Howard, then lied to investigators about his involvement. Salter’s attorneys said their client’s story never changed and evidence proved his innocence. They also questioned why prosecutors sought a capital murder charge when evidence showed the defendant didn’t fire a shot.
“Legally, aiding and abetting allows for a broad reach, but in a capital murder charge it is statutorily limited to the actual killing itself,” attorney Grant Gibson said. “To charge someone with capital murder, under the theory he aided and abetted when the evidence did not show that, was a strange tactical decision.”
Following his release from jail, the District Attorney’s office hit Salter with another three-count indictment for an unrelated incident. According to the new indictment, Salter faces charges of attempted murder, discharging a firearm into a vehicle and reckless endangerment. Court records show Salter now awaits a bond hearing for those charges later this month.
Jenkins was found guilty of murder Oct. 2, 2015, and sentenced to life in prison in the Bibb County Correctional Facility.
The Baldwin County District Attorney’s office did not return calls requesting comment before press time.