CARS HOMES JOBS

Lawyers debate where Schenectady victim was when shot

Jury set to begin deliberations Tuesday

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
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Criminal defense attorney Cheryl Coleman makes her summations on Monday in the five week trial of murder defendant James Wells.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Criminal defense attorney Cheryl Coleman makes her summations on Monday in the five week trial of murder defendant James Wells.

— Key prosecution witnesses were either mistaken or lying in their account of the June 2011 killing of Eddie Stanley inside a Bridge Street stairwell, the attorney for defendant James Wells argued Monday.

As evidence, attorney Cheryl Coleman pointed to a blood-transfer mark near the top of the stairwell, arguing Stanley was shot while standing up there. The witnesses placed Stanley near the bottom of the stairwell.

“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.”

Prosecutor Philip Mueller, though, responded in his own closing that the blood transfer Coleman cited didn’t mean what she said it meant. It only fits in with multiple other pieces of evidence farther down the stairwell that showed the shooting happened exactly where the witnesses said it happened.

And those witnesses identified James Wells as the shooter, Mueller argued.

“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.”

Stanley, Mueller argued, did exactly what anyone would instinctively do, flee from the shooter, Wells. In Stanley’s case, he climbed as far up the stairs as he could, ultimately shot four times from Wells’ .44 magnum revolver, Mueller said.

Closing arguments in the closely watched and lengthy case took place Monday, with Mueller’s closing lasting into the evening. The jurors will begin deliberations this morning.

Wells, 33, of Brooklyn, faces one count of second-degree murder for allegedly 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.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday morning after five weeks of testimony. Prosecutors presented a case in which they contend Wells fired multiple shots that killed the young 15-year-old 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.

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, she said.

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 gave the gun to Wells was suspect, Coleman argued.

Mueller, though, cited multiple other witnesses who testified Battle was involved in an ongoing fight and was nowhere near in position to shoot Stanley.

In his closing, Mueller rebutted defense contentions that police zeroed in on Wells, making witnesses change their stories. Key is the October 2012 discovery of the murder weapon and a second gun, wrapped in a type of jacket witnesses had already identified Wells as wearing.

In her argument, Coleman called Stanley, through the blood transfer mark high on the stairs, the best witness in the case.

Mueller pointed out that Stanley wasn’t a witness. “He was not because the defendant killed him,” Mueller told the jury. “The defendant made sure that Eddie was not a witness in this case with four shots.”

 
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