Judge Norman Krumenacker is faced with deciding whether a jury in an upcoming homicide trial will get to hear about a brief outburst which one defendant – the alleged shooter – made to a New Jersey policeman about murdering people.
Also, the judge is being asked to toss out the charges against a second defendant – the alleged getaway driver – because, his attorney says, merely being a driver is not accomplice liability.
Marquis “G” Neal, 30, the alleged triggerman, and his cousin, Anthony “Mac” Harvey, 30, both of Philadelphia, are charged with first-degree murder and related offenses in the Oct. 1, 2011, slaying of J-Quan Lewis, 21, of New York City.
The legal issues were raised Tuesday at a pretrial hearing before Krumenacker.
Lewis, who had been staying in Johnstown prior to his death, was shot in the parking lot at the Oakhurst Homes housing project in Johnstown. He was shot several times when Neal allegedly fired a handgun at him at close range, police said. Neal then got into a van allegedly driven by Harvey, police said.
Jury selection for their trial is scheduled for Jan. 7, although Krumenacker has not yet ruled whether the cases will be consolidated in one trial.
Both defendants left Johnstown after the shooting. Harvey was arrested on Nov 21, 2011, in Delaware County.
Neal was not taken into custody until March 6 in Gloucester County, N.J.
Officer Benjamin Lloyd from Gloucester County testified that he stopped a car in the early morning hours of March 6 after he observed that a headlight was not working.
Lloyd saw Neal in the back seat, not wearing a seat belt.
Neal, who appeared to have been asleep, gave the officer false names and eventually said there was a warrant out for him, Lloyd said. Neal then was taken to the police station, where he became angry when told that he was going to be fingerprinted, the policeman testified. The police wanted to do a computerized search of fingerprints in order to identify Neal, Lloyd said.
After calling the officer a racist, Neal allegedly lashed our verbally, using obscenities.
Lloyd testified that Neal said, “I murder mother-(expletive). The U.S. Marshals have a warrant for me. I’m Marquis Neal. Look me up.”
After that outburst, “he shut down and didn’t say another word,” Lloyd said.
The officer said that the suspect – who had not been advised of his rights to remain silent – did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and did not refer to any specific murder anywhere. In addition to the Cambria County warrant for his arrest on homicide, Neal had unrelated warrants in New Jersey for custody and child support issues, Lloyd said.
Attorney Robert Davis Gleason, one of Neal’s court-appointed attorneys, suggested to the judge that the outburst by Neal was “swagger” to gain street credibility by bragging about crimes never committed.
Another defense attorney, Paul Eckenrode, said that the police had no reason to detain Neal on a seat-belt violation and said that statement should be suppressed.
But Assistant District Attorney Tamara Bernstein said that Neal’s statement was a “spontaneous utterance,” which courts have ruled can be used as evidence at trial even when a defendant has not yet been advised of his right to remain silent.
In the Harvey case, defense attorney Jerome Kaharick said that the prosecution has failed to show any evidence that Harvey solicited, aided or abetted Neal in the shooting.
District Attorney Kelly Callihan called a witness who had not been heard at the preliminary hearing to testify about a confrontation Harvey and the victim had late on Sept. 30 and early on Oct. 1, 2011, in and outside Edder’s Den, a bar near the Oakhurst Homes. This occurred prior to the shooting.
Bradley Clark, a part-time bartender, said that Lewis – who was known as “Scar” – was there celebrating his 21st birthday. After Harvey entered the bar, Clark said that he saw the two men start to talk “angrily and were scuffling. Mac (Harvey) threw his arms up like ‘I don’t have a beef with you,’ ” the bartender recalled.
He told the two men “to take it outside,” where he saw they were fighting.
“Scar picked Mac up and threw him down head first on the street, ‘G’ (Neal) pulled up in a van and tried to break it up, and Scar picked up Mac and threw him back down,” Clark said.
Neal was driving a maroon van with damage on the front – the description of the van witnesses observed driving Neal away from the shooting scene later on Oct. 1, Callihan said.