Defense attorneys raise questions over evidence in Harris trial
Defense attorneys for the three men accused of killing former City Councilman Ken Harris got their first chance to question the state's case, saying pressure to solve the high-profile shooting led police to overlook gaps in evidence.
"It was a grave tragedy when Mr. Harris was killed. We were all hurt," said defense attorney Jerome Bivens, who represents defendant Jerome Williams. "That hurt turned to anger... and that anger turned to contempt. Deep, deep contempt. Somebody had to pay - somebody had to be arrested whether they were guilty or not."
Bivens said police treated the case differently than they would the average killing, and that "when the government wants to charge you with a crime, they can charge you with a crime." He said he also plans to question the veracity of results from the city crime lab.
"Mr. Harris, who was a voice for youth, would not want you to convict the wrong person," Bivens said.
Jason Silverstein, an attorney for defendant Charles McGaney, spoke about specific evidence gaps: he said that police recovered a black bandana with McGaney's DNA, but the man who prosecutors say is McGaney is shown on surveillance footage holding a white towel to his face. Prosecutors also say he wore latex gloves, but a separate video shows him without gloves, Silverstein said.Both Bivens and Silverstein spoke of "strange circumstances" surrounding the case. Silverstein said that after Harris was shot and drove away, an unidentified man struck a match and held it under Harris' nose to see if he was breathing. He then fled. From the start, there's been conspiracy theories swirling around the case - many having to do with the identity of the woman who was with Harris that night - and the defense seems poised to raise more.
In his opening, prosecutor Donald Giblin acknowledged that no one can specifically identify the shooters because of the masks they wore. But he said the totality of the evidence is strong. Two big breaks helped police solve the case, he said:
-A woman who lives in the nearby neighborhood dropped her garbage in her trash can and noticed that the bag appeared to land on something. Inside was a woman's purse, taken during the robbery at the New Haven Lounge jazz club. Inside were latex gloves containing the suspect DNA.
-But police didn't have a suspect to match the DNA to. A security guard who worked the shopping center where the robbery took place called police to say that he recognized from security footage released via the media the distinctive walk of a man he knew to frequent the shopping center. He said that man's name was Gary Collins.
Giblin also promised that prosecutors would respond to all questions raised by the defense.