A Hempstead man killed a 17-year-old with a machete by inflicting a blow that severed a jugular vein in a confrontation that broke out after the defendant lost a game of dice, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.
But a defense lawyer for David Sadler, 47, said as the defendant’s murder trial began in Nassau County Court that Sadler had only wielded the weapon in self-defense while he was being robbed.
Terrence Grier Jr., who was known as “T.J.” died after suffering the neck wound in the July 18, 2014 attack on Albemarle Avenue, Nassau prosecutor Martin Meaney said.
Grier’s mother, Greta Price, 48, testified Tuesday that her son had been working a summer job with Hempstead Village’s parks department at the time he died.
She recalled knocks at her door and rushing outside of her nearby home to find her son on the ground, blood flowing from his neck, as people tried to help him.
Meaney told jurors that Sadler had been playing dice with Grier and others, and an argument went from verbal to physical after Sadler lost his money.
Meaney said Sadler then went and got a machete and walked up and down a Hempstead block “brandishing” the weapon and “threatening people,” before approaching the victim.
“If you want to fight, drop the knife,” Meaney said the victim told Sadler.
But Sadler instead swung the machete at Grier, inflicting a gaping neck wound and using such force that a bone was nicked, the prosecutor said.
The victim then stumbled away, collapsing once before getting up and falling a final time and ultimately dying despite calls to 911 and life-saving efforts.
At the same time, the victim’ friends beat on Sadler’s car and tried to keep him from leaving the scene, but he drove away anyway, Meaney said.
Witnesses identified Sadler to police as a local pizza delivery man, and while Sadler told police at first that “some people jumped” him, he later said he “just wanted revenge,” Meaney said.
“This was no self-defense. T.J. had nothing in his hand,” the prosecutor said.
However, defense attorney Brian Carmody told jurors Sadler lost his money in the dice game, but won it back, prompting a beating and robbery of him by other angry players that included Grier.
The defense attorney claimed Grier took the money from Sadler’s pockets, and there was a struggle before Sadler hit Grier with the machete.
Carmody said friends of the victim then came after Sadler, who fled in his damaged car.
The defense attorney said Sadler told police he’d been beaten and robbed, but they “finally browbeat him into thinking he must be guilty of something.”
The Westbury lawyer told jurors there are special provisions in the law that apply to use of force by a person who believes they are being robbed.
Outside court, Carmody compared the defense strategy to the one used in the high-profile 1984 Manhattan case in which the defendant was acquitted of attempted murder after shooting four teens he said he thought were going to rob him on a subway.
“It’s hardly ever used,” Carmody said of the defense. “It was highlighted in the Bernie Goetz case.”
The trial continues Wednesday.