Jury selection begins today for Billy Joe Shaver trial

by Tommy Witherspoon

Jury selection is set to begin this morning in the aggravated assault trial of country crooner Billy Joe Shaver, the self-styled “Honky Tonk Hero” charged with shooting a man outside a bar in Lorena three years ago.

The 70-year-old singer-songwriter is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court in the April 1, 2007, shooting of Billy Bryant Coker outside Papa Joe’s Saloon on Interstate 35 in Lorena.

Shaver’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, of Houston, said Monday that Shaver is looking forward to putting the case behind him.

It was unfortunate and something he couldn’t avoid,” said DeGuerin, who also has represented such notables as Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. “He was defending himself. He was responding to a threat. Billy Coker had a knife, no question about that.”

Details of the incident are in dispute, but Shaver and Coker argued inside the tavern and ended up outside, according to records filed in the case.

Shaver reportedly asked Coker, “Where do you want it?” then shot him in the cheek and drove away, according to reports.

Shaver has denied asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” But prosecutors say they expect Coker and other witnesses to testify that they heard Shaver ask the question, which has inspired at least two country songs, including one called “Where Do You Want It?”

Prosecutors Mark Parker and Beth Toben said Monday they could call up to 24 witnesses. They said Shaver’s self-defense claim will be disputed.

“Based on the evidence we have gleaned and discovered, it doesn’t appear to be a case of self-defense,” Parker said.

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Shaver also is charged with unlawfully carrying a handgun by a license holder on licensed premises, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Shaver, who lives in Waco, is mentioned in the recent box-office hit “Crazy Heart,” which also featured one of his songs, “Live Forever.”

Waylon Jennings filled most of his album “Honky Tonk Heroes” with Shaver’s songs, and many other artists, including Elvis Presley and Kris Kristofferson, have recorded Shaver’s music through the years.

Court officials expect the trial to last three or four days.

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