Willie Nelson, Robert Duvall Attend Billy Joe Shaver Trial
In a show of support for their friend, both Willie Nelson and actor Robert Duvall attended the Waco, Texas trial of singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver on Thursday (March 8). Billy Joe is charged with aggravated assault, accused of shooting Billy Bryant Coker outside Papa Joe's Texas Saloon in Lorena, Texas in 2007. His attorneys are calling it an act of self-defense.
Willie told press covering the trial, "We've been friends forever and always will be ... We play music together and travel together."
Coker took the stand on Wednesday, recounting the events on the night of March 31, 2006. Coker stated he was sitting and talking with Shaver in the bar before Shaver invited him outside, where he allegedly asked Coker, "Where do you want it?," before shooting him in the cheek. Coker testified he didn't perceive any problems with Shaver prior to the incident, except that the singer appeared to be annoyed that he was stirring his drink with his knife. Other witnesses during the trial testified that it was common for Coker to stir his drink in such a manner.
Several witnesses testified that they did not see or hear any arguments between Billy Joe and Coker, although Michael Strickland, who was in the bar the night of the shooting, said he heard the two men say "they weren't gonna fight no more, they were too old to fight," according to the Austin American-Statesman. He also said Shaver would interrupt Coker and he heard Coker tell the singer to "shut up."
Strickland told the jury that prior to the shooting, he sensed some tension between the two men, so he went outside to the bar's back patio. Later the two men came outside through the patio, which is where the incident took place. Strickland testified that the two men came out of the bar, Shaver in the lead, and "He [Shaver] just spun around and put his hand about a foot and a half, two feet, from Coker's face and shot him."
On Thursday, the defense began its case with testimony from Shaver's ex-wife. Wanda Shaver said Coker was not friendly to her in the bar and became increasingly irritable as the night wore on. At some time during the conversation between Coker and Billy Joe, the two learned that Wanda was the widow of Coker's cousin.
Billy Joe has apparently kept his sense of humor throughout the trail. According to the Austin American-Statesman, he was introducing Duvall to someone in the courtroom when he said, "Hey, I want you to meet my bail bondsman."
The newspaper also reported that the courtroom in Waco was filled to capacity, and photographers waited outside its doors to capture pictures of the celebrities as they entered and left the trial.
Billy Joe, who wrote 'I'm Just An Old Chunk of Coal' for John Anderson and 'Georgia on a Fast Train,' recorded by Willie, may take the stand today. Willie, whom Billy Joe called the night of the shooting, may also testify.