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UPDATE: Stairway blood central in Wells case closing arguments

March 18, 2013
Updated 3:58 p.m.
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James M. Wells, left, of Brooklyn, is on trial for murder in the June 12, 2011, fatal shooting of Schenectady High School basketball standout Eddie Stanley, right.
James M. Wells, left, of Brooklyn, is on trial for murder in the June 12, 2011, fatal shooting of Schenectady High School basketball standout Eddie Stanley, right.

The defense attorney for the man accused of killing Eddie Stanley leaned on the forensic evidence in the case to show in her closing arguments that key witness accounts were not true.

James Wells' defense attorney, Cheryl Coleman, pointed to blood-transfer evidence that she said showed that Stanley was on the 10th or 11th step of the stairwell when he was shot, Stanley's blood transferring to the wall there.

Key witnesses for the prosecution, Coleman noted, placed Stanley at the bottom of the stairs, as high as the third or fourth step when he was shot.

"Anybody who said that he was shot at the bottom of the stairs was either mistaken or lying or both," Coleman told the jury, "or was never there."

Witnesses either said Stanley was close enough to Wells to punch him, or that Wells shot Stanley at close range.

"That which we know is absolutely, unquestionably accurate and true is the exact opposite of what every so-called prosecution eyewitness who ID'd James as the shooter says."

Coleman gave her closing arguments this morning in the murder case against Wells. Prosecutor Philip Mueller started his in the afternoon.

Early in his own closing, prosecutor Philip Mueller responded to the defense contention that the forensic evidence showed Stanley was shot on the upper steps.

Mueller told the jury that wasn't what the evidence showed at all.

"That says nothing about where the victim was when he got shot," Mueller told the jury. "The only thing it says is that Eddie Stanley, at some point in this murder, made it that high and fell against the wall and rubbed off some of the blood that was saturating his T-shirt."

None of the wounds Stanley received would have necessarily instantly stopped Stanley from moving, Mueller said, and the natural movement would have been away from the shooter, up the stairs.

Mueller's closing was ongoing this afternoon.

Wells, 33, of Brooklyn, faces one count of second-degree murder, accused of killing the unarmed Stanley early on the morning of June 12, 2011, after a party at 730 Bridge St. Wells also faces other counts, including weapons and endangerment counts.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday morning after five weeks of testimony. Prosecutors presented a case in which they contend it was Wells who fired multiple shots that killed the young basketball player.

Wells took the stand in his own defense Thursday, denying that he killed Stanley. Wells admitted to drawing a gun, a .357, in the stairwell, but said he never fired it. He only drew it after the lights went out and someone else fired, he said. Wells said he never possessed the .44 magnum that night, though he had access to it through his three friends, who were all present at the party.

It was the .44 Magnum that prosecutors contend was the murder weapon.

In her closing argument, Coleman conceded important counts, the top among them that her client admitted to weapons possession, which alone would send him to prison for up to 15 years on a single count.

Coleman instead focused on the murder of Stanley as she attempted to take apart the prosecution's case, focusing on the "big five" witnesses who identified Wells as the shooter.

Of those five witnesses, Coleman told the jury, only two denied receiving compensation for their testimony.

The two who didn't receive compensation, Coleman said, have problems, as well. Their testimony is contradicted by the scientific evidence placing Stanley near the top of the stairs when he was shot.

Then there were the other three members of Wells' alleged group. None of them were called in to testify, including "J," identified as Jeremy Battle.

It was Battle who was identified as having the big gun shortly before the shooting, threatening people on the home's porch to get off. Testimony that Battle then gave it to Wells was suspect, Coleman said.

One of the big five witnesses even initially described Battle to police as the shooter, citing a long scar on the shooter's face.

"Where the hell is Jeremy Battle?" Coleman told the jury. "Why the hell wasn't he in this courtroom?"

No one but Wells has been charged in Stanley's killing.

Her client had no shared intent with any shooter to kill Stanley, an argument that the jury will be allowed to consider on the murder charge, but one Coleman called a "last resort" for the prosecution.

Coleman also questioned the "hamburger helper," the evidence elicited by the prosecution that her client is a bad guy.

"This bad guy took the stand and admitted to being a bad guy," Coleman told the jury, "but this bad guy didn't kill Eddie Stanley."

 
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