The question of whether one teenage gang member killed another in Wyandanch, now before a Suffolk County Court jury, hangs on the reliability of both a statement signed by the defendant and the people who testified against him.
To Jason Bassett, defense attorney for Gabriel Hubbard, now 19, neither the statement nor the witnesses count for much, he said in his closing argument Friday before Judge Martin Efman. Hubbard is accused of firing 10 shots at a house in July 2008, killing Jaquan Jones, 18.
But to Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl, the statement is a compelling confession and the witnesses, with their criminal records and fake names, are to be expected in a gang killing.
"When a crime is committed in hell, you can't expect angels as witnesses," Pearl told jurors. "This is a gang murder. No one disputes that."
Hours before the killing, several witnesses said Hubbard and fellow members of his gang, the OTOs or Overly Thugged Outs, fought Jones and his gang, the Brave Hearts. Jones got the better of Hubbard and he sought revenge, they said.
Bassett said the evidence is weak. No witnesses saw Hubbard fire the assault rifle. There is no physical evidence tying him to the scene, Bassett said. He said witnesses gave shifting accounts of which OTO members were angry about losing the fight, making it crucial for Suffolk detectives to get a confession from Hubbard in 2010 when they went to see him in North Carolina, where he'd moved soon after Jones died.
The statement ultimately signed by Hubbard had no information in it that detectives didn't already know, Bassett said.
Pearl, however, said that wasn't true.
"Everything Mr. Bassett has put forward to you is from his imagination," Pearl told jurors.
Not only did Hubbard sign a confession, Pearl said he also drew a diagram of the crime scene and, tellingly, drew a crosshairs on a photo of the scene to show where he shot. Police didn't find out until later that the gun he used had a scope with crosshairs.
The fact that Hubbard suddenly moved to North Carolina after the shooting should say something, Pearl said.
"Only Gabriel Hubbard flees the state after the murder," he said. "The wicked flee when no one pursues."
It makes no sense to expect to find Hubbard's DNA or fingerprints at the crime scene when he fired from a tree more than 50 yards away, Pearl said.
The jury will resume deliberating Monday.
An earlier version of this story misspelled Jaquan Jones' first name.