The argument over whether Suffolk prosecutors properly turned over evidence in a murder case intensified Tuesday as the trial of a North Amityville man continued.
Joseph Hanshe, the defense attorney for Shawn Lawrence, 42, has said that prosecutors failed to comply with their obligation to give him a ballistics report that shows one of the guns used in a Jan. 12, 2010 shooting was recovered months later when a teenager was arrested with it. Hanshe said if he had that information before Lawrence's trial began, he could have investigated it and made reference to it in his opening argument.
Lawrence is accused of killing James Terry, 44, of North Amityville during an ambush in an apartment complex. Prosecutors say the shooting was the result of a fight between co-defendant Allen McGhee and David Hodges, who was shot in the head and left with severe brain damage.
Yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock told state Supreme Court Justice William Condon that one of the prosecutors who had the case before him, Robert Biancavilla, found a note in his file indicating the ballistics report was turned over June 7, 2013. At that time, Lawrence was representing himself.
"So the defendant has had ... [the report] for two years," Kurtzrock said.
"I didn't receive the documents he's talking about," Lawrence said.
"As officers of the court, I have to take the assistant district attorneys at their word," Condon said, adding that he didn't know what might have happened to the paperwork once it arrived at the jail for Lawrence.
Hanshe said the report was not in his files or Lawrence's own files.
Further, defense attorney Craig McElwee, who represented Lawrence's co-defendant Allen McGhee, said he never got the report before McGhee pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year. That plea could now be tainted, McElwee said.
The issue could be significant because under what is known as the Brady rule, prosecutors generally are required to turn over any evidence to defendants that could be helpful to them. Condon on Monday denied Hanshe's request to dismiss the case because of a Brady rule violation.
Kurtzrock argued Tuesday that the gun recovered from the teenager was fired during the attack, but was not the one that killed Terry and likely wasn't used by either Lawrence or McGhee. Therefore, he said, failure to receive the ballistics report on that gun wasn't a Brady rule violation for either defendant.
Hanshe said that made no sense because the teenager may have taken part in the murder, he said.
"I have none of his records," he said of the teen. "I don't know what his involvement is in the case."
Condon agreed to look at the prosecutor's files on the teenager and if necessary would let the defense see them, with identifying information removed.
In testimony Tuesday, Det. John McLeer said when Lawrence was arrested in April 2012, he angrily insisted he had nothing to do with the shooting.