Yesterday in the Wake County courthouse, defense attorney Michael Howell asked his client, seated on a witness stand, a blunt question.
“Mr. Bass, did you shoot Mr. Fogg?”
“Yes sir, I did,” said the witness.
“Why?” said Howell.
“I was fearful of my life, and I was threatened by Mr. Fogg.”
The witness was Justin Bass, 25, who admitted to shooting Jerome Fogg, a 27-year-old former Mixed Martial Arts fighter, in a late-night incident last July 4 in Fuquay-Varina’s Bay Tree apartments. Fogg, who was struck by three bullets, went into a two-week coma, but somehow survived. Bass is charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.
Bass said he acted in self-defense. A week prior, Fogg, who is known by the street name Bam-Bam, had broken Bass’ jaw with three punches after an argument over a gang handshake, sending him to the hospital for surgery requiring four screws and a wire. The night of the shooting, Fogg had a 2-foot knife on him.
Bass, who worked for a moving company prior to his arrest, claims that on the night of the shooting, Fogg provoked him into pulling the trigger. Fogg, who is out of the hospital and testified yesterday, said Bass shot him without provocation.
According to Howell, a jury cannot convict a defendant for attempted murder if there is no evidence of premeditation or deliberation.
Three witnesses testified earlier in the day that Fogg had a reputation for being violent and aggressive. Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled that in self-defense cases, jurors may not consider prior incidents to prove a character trait like aggression—a ruling that will likely be appealed if Bass is found guilty. Outside of the jury’s presence, one witness said Fogg punched his own dog repeatedly, and punched him in a restaurant in front of children after a conversation about a food order.
“He had a Tap Out shirt on and said, ‘See this shirt? That’s what I do — I fight,’ ” said the witness. When the witness’ fiance questioned Fogg, “He said, I don’t hit females, but I can make an exception.’ I said, ‘What did you say?’ And he punched me.”
Also outside the presence of a jury, the mother of Fogg’s children testified that he physically abused her more times than she could count on two hands.
The jury watched a video, taken by an onlooker’s smartphone, portraying Fogg’s three punches to Bass’ jaw the week before the shooting. Fogg, who was then 240 pounds, arrived to the Bay Tree apartments with a bottle of liquor and 12-pack of Bud Light. In the parking lot, he accused Bass, whom he didn’t know, of running his mouth. It was Bass’s birthday, and he’d been drinking vodka.
Eventually, Bass claimed allegiance to the Pirus, a branch of the Blood gang. “I’m Piru,” Fogg responded. Fogg then said he was a YG (young gangsta). Bass, he testified, said he was a BG (baby gangsta).
“I ranked over him,” Fogg testified. “I stuck my hand out to do the handshake, to … let everything go.”
Bass attempted to do the Piru handshake, but he messed it up. Fogg got upset. He testified that he asked Bass who his Big Homie (boss) was, explained the handshake “and went back to my liquor and my beer.” Bass, Fogg continued, “got to talkin’ shit again,” and then pulled his pants up. “Most people sag their pants, so if you get in a fight, you don’t’ want your pants to fall down,” Fogg said, justifying his decision to punch Bass in the face.
Bass disagrees with this account. He testified that he never provoked Fogg or put his hands up to fight. He said Fogg punched him immediately after he screwed up the handshake.
During the video, Bass remained quiet, while Fogg could be heard taunting Bass, saying things like, “Know that goddamn handshake,” and “You got BG, nigga, where you goin?”
Bass will resume his testimony tomorrow.