The defense lawyer for a North Amityville man on trial for murder asked a Suffolk judge Monday to dismiss the case because he said he had just discovered the prosecution has withheld key evidence for years.
The judge denied the request.
Shawn Lawrence, 42, is charged with shooting James Terry, 44, to death on Jan. 12, 2010, in a North Amityville apartment complex parking lot. Also injured in the shooting were David Hodges, who has severe brain damage, and Ralph Council Jr., 49, who was shot in the buttocks. Lawrence is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder.
Defense attorney Joseph Hanshe of Sayville told state Supreme Court Justice William Condon that during jury selection two weeks ago, in a pile of 600 pages of documents, the prosecution for the first time gave him a ballistics report indicating police had recovered the murder weapon on June 20, 2010.
Hanshe said the 9-mm pistol was recovered during an arrest of an unnamed teenager who "was shooting up the Amityville area," and it could be evidence of the teen's role in the murder.
Under what is known as the Brady rule, prosecutors are required to immediately turn over any evidence to defendants that could be helpful to them. Hanshe said this was a clear violation of the Brady rule. If he'd known of this information all along, it would have changed how he investigated and prepared the case for trial, and his opening statement to the jury would have been much different.
"It shows someone else had the gun at the scene, other than my client," Hanshe said.
He noted that he and earlier defense lawyers on the case had been demanding any such reports for almost three years. "It's not that we didn't ask for this," Hanshe said.
The prosecutor on the case at the time, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla, gave only a "very cursory" response to defense demands for evidence before the trial, Hanshe said.
The current prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock, told Condon the ballistics report did not clear Lawrence. The prosecution believes this gun was used by co-defendant Allen McGhee, who pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter and is serving 12 years in prison.
"I'm going to look into this more," Condon said. "I'm not sure it's [a] Brady [violation]."
Condon denied the motions for a mistrial and to dismiss the case, but said if Hanshe needs more time to examine the gun he can have it.
The case has already featured defense allegations that homicide detectives fabricated several witness statements against Lawrence.
When testimony resumed Monday, Police Officer Vincent Famularo testified that when he arrived at the scene, Terry was slumped over dead in the driver's seat of a minivan, his legs hanging out of the door and his head on the passenger seat.
Hodges was stumbling around outside, apparently confused and in shock, Famularo said. He quickly realized he had a gunshot wound to his forehead.
Kurtzrock has said Hodges' injury is so severe that all he can say now is, "The man, the man."