The question of whether a North Amityville man took part in a shooting that left one man dead and two injured is now before a Suffolk jury after lawyers spent more than two hours advising it how to interpret the evidence.
Jurors Wednesday began deliberating in the case against Shawn Lawrence, 42, charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder. He is accused of helping to kill James Terry, 44, and seriously injuring David Hodges and Ralph Council Jr. in a Jan. 12, 2010, ambush at the Andpress Plaza apartment complex in North Amityville.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Joseph Hanshe of Sayville told jurors that video of the crime doesn't lie, unlike witnesses in the case. The video shows four assailants of roughly the same height. Lawrence is 11 inches taller than Allen McGhee, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case last year.
Hanshe replayed several parts of the grainy surveillance video. With the image on the screen, he said, "All the same height. The admitted killer, 5 foot 5." Pointing to his client, he continued, "The accused killer, 6 foot 4."
Hanshe also disparaged the testimony of the prosecution's two eyewitnesses, Council and James Jones. He noted that Jones was on a crack cocaine binge when he claimed to have seen the shooting, adding that he changes his story to suit whomever he is talking to. "I don't know how anyone can believe anything he says," he said.
Council, who initially told police he didn't recognize the attackers, saw the shooting through tinted glass in a dark parking lot during the absolute mayhem of an ambush, he said.
"He said he turned and ran," Hanshe said. "I suggest to you that his first account was correct -- he didn't know who did the shooting."
Both men identified Lawrence only after they were later arrested and were looking to trade information to the police, Hanshe said.
If so, they did a poor job of it, said Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock. Neither man got a break on charges they were facing, he said. He said both men resisted telling the truth at first because they feared retaliation in a dangerous neighborhood.
Kurtzrock attacked the credibility of a defense witness, Tariq Burwell, who testified that police forged his statement identifying Lawrence as a shooter. He said Burwell, unlike Jones and Council, didn't have the courage to tell the truth in court.
It made no sense for police to frame Lawrence, he said. "Why would police make their job more difficult by picking someone who's significantly taller than the others?" he said.
Kurtzrock acknowledged that on much of the video, the four attackers look the same height, but he argued that a couple of angles appear to show one man is taller. The video isn't a reliable way to judge the attackers' heights, he said.