NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A murder case stemming from a shooting outside a December high school basketball game in Newport News will now move to Circuit Court.

Demari Batten, the 18-year-old former Warwick High School student charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Woodside High student Justice Dunham, appeared in court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing.

Batten is charged with second-degree murder in the case.

The shooting happened back in December outside Menchville High School next to a car Batten had taken to a basketball game at the school.

Batten was taken into police custody at the scene and has claimed he shot Dunham in self-defense.

Justice’s father Mike Dunham says eyewitnesses told him that Justice was under attack at the time.

In court Thursday, defense attorney James Broccoletti called the deadly shooting “at best, a case of self-defense, and at worst a case of voluntary manslaughter,” but the judge kept the murder charge in place and moved the case forward to the higher court.

Batten brought a gun with him to the game and left it inside his friend’s Hyundai Elantra when they went inside the gym. Batten’s attorney says he was fearing he might need it.

“He didn’t have an argument inside the game. The way the detective related it was [Batten] recognized people at the game that had issues with him, so there was no confrontation. He left to avoid a confrontation,” Broccoletti said.

Batten went back to the car with about a minute left in the game and was standing next to it with the passenger door standing open. Batten told police that a young man went directly toward him and kept Batten from closing the door.

Batten then said he feared that the Glock pistol with an extended magazine that he had loaded with at least 20 bullets might be stolen. He reached for it — and Batten said a second person tried to enter the car from the driver’s side.

Batten fired one shot toward the driver’s door, striking Dunham in the chest. Two others were close behind, but a detective said they were not trying to get in the car.

“[The detective] clearly said that those people were in the vicinity and moving towards the car. so whether Mr. Batten perceived it as one way or another way, the fact is that there were more than two people that were present,” Broccoletti said.

Dunham died moments later, lying in the grass of a median that separated the Menchville High parking lot.
His attorney says Batten’s case on second-degree murder and gun charges will take a while because of the backlog in the courts.