Like Joe White, Dorman Dean Chandler was incarcerated at the Haralson County Jail at the same time Justin Chapman was there. He initially told investigators that he heard Chapman admit to the crimes. On the witness stand, however, he changed his story. According to Chapman’s lawyer, Chandler later said he wouldn’t testify because his family ran the Mafia and would take a dim view of his being a snitch.
Joe White was perhaps the most important witnesses for the prosecution. He was being held at the Haralson County Jail on the same cellblock as Justin Chapman in 2006. White testified that the two were praying when Chapman confessed that he had started the fire that burned his house and killed his neighbor. According to White, Chapman said he hadn’t meant to kill the woman but she was better off.
Stephen Hughes was a close friend of Justin Chapman who was visiting Chapman’ on the night of the fire. Hughes opened his mobile home to Chapman and his family that night. (Chapman had just brawled with another man and was concerned that the man’s friends might come for payback.) Hughes’ wife, Brandie, later testified that Chapman was at the Hughes’ home when the fire broke out.
Gary Allen Stroupe was a key witness for the prosecution. He testified that he had been sitting on his front porch at 3 a.m. on the night of the fire and saw a man leaving the neighborhood on foot as Chapman’s house burned. Stroupe told police and fire investigators that he wasn’t sure of the identity of the person he saw. At trial, however, Stroupe testified that he believed the figure was that of Justin Chapman.
An exterior view of the Haralson County courthouse in Buchanan, Ga. This is where Justin Chapman was tried, in 2007, on charges that he set fire to his house and killed his neighbor, Alice Jackson, in the process. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)
Exterior view of the Haralson County jail in Buchanan. This is where Justin Chapman was held after his arrest in the arson and murder in 2006. A fellow inmate gave devastating testimony at trial that Chapman had confessed to him during an inmates’ prayer meeting. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)