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Handwriting expert casts doubt on witness' claim that police forged statement in Shawn Lawrence murder trial

Shawn Lawrence, of North Amityville, was convicted of

Shawn Lawrence, of North Amityville, was convicted of killing James Terry and seriously injuring two other men during a parking lot ambush on Jan. 12, 2010, and was sentenced Thursday, July 2, 2015, to the maximum of 75 years to life in prison. Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

A handwriting expert and a detective appeared to cast doubt Tuesday on a man's claim that Suffolk police forged his signature on a fabricated statement that said he witnessed a murder and saw who did it.

Their testimony came as the trial of Shawn Lawrence, 42, of North Amityville, came to a close before state Supreme Court Justice William Condon. Lawrence is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder. He is accused of taking part in a Jan. 12, 2010, shooting that killed James Terry, 44, and seriously injured David Hodges and Ralph Council Jr.

Lawrence was arrested in part because of statements police say they got from Tariq Burwell, 35, now of Shirley. The statements describe the shooting and identify Lawrence as one of the shooters.

But Burwell testified last week that he gave no such statements and said the signatures on them were not his.

Det. Thomas Walsh testified Tuesday that he took the first statement from Burwell about the shooting and that a few months later, Det. Charles Leser took another one that named Lawrence.

As Walsh answered questions by Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock, a Lawrence family member fumed in the audience. "He's sitting up there lying," the family member said repeatedly, until a court officer said to be quiet or leave.

Walsh said Lawrence's arrest was based on more than what Burwell and Council told him. He said he also relied on an identification by Hodges. Defense attorney Joseph Hanshe asked how that happened, when the jury has been told that Hodges is incapable of communicating since getting shot in the head.

Walsh said that Hodges recovered enough to communicate for a time.

"He got worse" afterward, he said. "He wasn't getting the proper care."

Earlier, forensic document examiner Jeffrey Luber of the Suffolk Crime Laboratory testified that the signatures on the statements matched known signatures Burwell has placed on orders of protection and other documents over the years. Luber said the signatures on the statements showed no signs of forgery.

During questioning by Hanshe, Luber acknowledged that a state Supreme Court Justice in Brooklyn deemed Luber's work examining signatures in a political case three years ago to be not credible.

Hanshe and Kurtzrock will give closing arguments to the jury Wednesday and deliberations will begin.


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