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Murder sentencing delayed by claims of prosecutorial misconduct

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. Photo Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

The planned sentencing of a North Amityville man for a murder conviction was delayed and overshadowed Monday by more claims of prosecutorial misconduct and judicial bias in the case and perjury charges against two men who testified on his behalf at his trial.

Shawn Lawrence, 42, was convicted last month of second-degree murder and attempted murder for a Jan. 12, 2010, shooting that killed Ralph Terry, 44, and seriously wounded David Hodges and Ralph Council Jr. Lawrence was scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but defense attorney Joseph Hanshe of Sayville filed a motion seeking to set aside the verdict.

In the motion, Hanshe reiterates earlier claims that Suffolk prosecutors improperly withheld evidence from the defense. That evidence includes a ballistics report of a gun seized from a juvenile offender months after the shooting and that juvenile's criminal history.

Hanshe said the defense didn't get the ballistics report until shortly before the trial began and the criminal history didn't come until the trial was in progress. Getting those records so late hampered his ability to use them effectively in his defense of Lawrence, he wrote. The ballistics report indicated the seized gun had been used at the murder scene, but was not used in the killing.

"Had this material been provided to the defense when it was originally requested it would have provided the defense with further avenues of investigation relevant to the crimes," Hanshe wrote.

He also wrote that state Supreme Court Justice William Condon skewed the case by limiting his ability to introduce records he says were fabricated by detectives and not permitting him to call expert witnesses who would have supported his defense that police got witnesses to lie against Lawrence.

Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock told Condon that the issues Hanshe raised were either settled by earlier rulings or not relevant to the question of Lawrence's guilt or innocence.

Condon delayed the sentencing until July 2, when he will also rule on Hanshe's motion.

Meanwhile, Kurtzrock announced the indictment on perjury charges of Allen McGhee and Tariq Burwell. McGhee, 27, who is serving 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the case, testified at the trial that Lawrence had nothing to do with the shooting. He said he shot at Hodges, Terry and Council after he got an allergic reaction from food he took off Hodges' plate at a party. McGhee said at the trial he couldn't recall who the three assailants with him were.

However, that's the opposite of what he said under oath when he pleaded guilty.

"He very specifically stated [then] that Shawn Lawrence was one of the shooters," Kurtzrock said. One of his statements under oath must be false, "which is the definition of perjury," Kurtzrock said.

McGhee pleaded not guilty to the perjury charges Monday.

Burwell, 35, testified at the trial and at a pretrial hearing that he never saw or signed statements to police identifying Lawrence as the shooter. Det. Thomas Walsh testified at the trial that Burwell dictated and signed the statement and a handwriting expert testified the signatures matched other known signatures by Burwell.

Burwell, of Wyandanch, did not respond to a notice to appear in court and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.


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