The Lateisha Green Trial: Thursday Blog Post
This is legal intern Laura Vogel blogging from Syracuse, New York, where the Lateisha “Teish” Green hate crime murder trial is in its fourth day at the Onondaga County Courthouse. Today, the prosecution and defense rested and the jury began its deliberations. But before all that began, more attempts at witness intimidation were made. Late last night, at about 11 pm, we received word from Mark Cannon that he was approached in his car by a man brandishing a handgun. Mark sped off, and no shots were fired. He was not physically hurt. The police were called. The family was badly shaken up, and slept little, adding to the already overwhelming strain that this trial has placed on them. We spent much of the day working with the District Attorney's office and other officials to ensure that the entire Cannon/Green family is safe.
At court, the day began with the defense and prosecution’s closing arguments.
Closing Statement: Defense
In his summation, defense counsel highlighted some elements of the evidence and testimony presented during the trial that he believed challenged the prosecution’s theory of the crime. He reminded the jury that they are charged with the responsibility of determining what went on the night of November 14, 2008, at 411 Seymour Street in Syracuse, New York. While coming to a conclusion about the events of the evening, defense counsel requested that the jury recall a number of facts that were presented as evidence and testified to during the trial.
Defense counsel reminded the jury of the atmosphere at the scene of the crime, stating that it was dark outside, that there were a number of people at the residence and in the surrounding area, that there were several vehicles in the area, and that many individuals were intoxicated, some of them to a rather substantial degree.
The attorney then went on to point out some discrepancies between different witnesses' testimony. He mentioned that there was a disagreement about who was standing at the car in which Mark, Teish, and Star were seated at the curb of 411 Seymour Street. He also mentioned the difference between statements regarding whether or not individuals at the car could hear people behind them speaking and using anti-LGBT slurs. He also reminded the jury that some of the people at or near the car saw a gun, while others did not. Additionally, he mentioned that two residents of the house at 411 Seymour Street described where the gun was located in the home, and that each person said it was kept in a different location within the house.
Next, the attorney for the defense discussed the legal requirement of “intent.” He stated that an individual guilty of a crime must have had the conscious objective to commit the action that defines the crime under the law. In this vein, he reminded the jury about the discrepancies between witnesses’ testimony regarding the location of the gun when it was shot, calling into question whether or not the gun was inside or outside of the car where Mark, Teish, and Star were seated when the shot was fired. Additionally, he reminded the jury that both Mark and Star stated that they did not know whether the shooter was pointing at any specific individual within the car.
The attorney for the defense also called into question the validity of DeLee’s statements to police during his interview with detectives Hack and Kilburn. Defense counsel did this by describing the circumstances of the interview, stating that DeLee’s ability to eat, drink, and use the bathroom were out of his control, that the room was small, and that he was tired or intoxicated.
Next, he called into question the identification of DeLee as the person who shot the rifle into the car, stating that the strongest witnesses, and especially Mark, were clearly distressed at the time of the incident.
Then, he tried to challenge the determination of the shooting as a hate crime, stating that DeLee did not know Teish before this incident, that Teish’s clothes were not feminine, and that, therefore, he had no reason to believe anything regarding Teish's sexual orientation.
He mentioned the lack of physical evidence found on the gun, reminding the jury that neither DeLee’s fingerprints nor his DNA were found on the weapon. He stated that because of the weapon’s construction, it was difficult to see whether or not the safety was engaged and whether or not it was loaded.
The defense attorney concluded his summation by admitting that it is natural for the jury to feel sympathy for the witnesses and Teish’s family, but asserted that this sympathy could not color the jury’s view of the facts. He stated his belief that the facts presented in court through testimony and evidence left room for reasonable doubt that DeLee was the shooter or, even if he was the shooter, that he may not have intentionally killed, seriously injured, or even shot at the inhabitants of the car parked outside of 411 Seymour Street on November 14, 2008. Counsel’s final statement to the jury was that the best way to protect the rights of LGBT people is to protect the rights of all individuals, including the defendant.
Closing Statement: Prosecution
ADA Matt Doran gave the summation for the prosecution. He began his statement by describing how, this morning, he thought about the loss of Teish’s life. He said that he had a hard time sleeping last night and was awake to see the sunrise. When he saw the sunrise, ADA Doran realized that Teish would never have the chance to see another one herself. He realized that the defendant had robbed Teish of years of her life in which she could fulfill her dreams. ADA Doran described that he saw his two children this morning, which made him think about Star’s testimony, during which she stated that Teish looked at her father and smiled during her last moments of consciousness. ADA Doran said that Teish’s sexual orientation was merely an aspect of who she was; it did not define her as a person, so it was a tragedy for it to have defined her death.
This sentiment was later echoed by the ADA’s articulation of why the charge of murder specifically as a hate crime is necessary in this case. He stated that there are many different kinds of murder, of which murder as a hate crime is one. Doran said that America is a country defined by its diversity; that part of our nation’s greatness is derived from the fact that we do not permit people to kill each other simply because of who they are. Doran then asserted that this is exactly what DeLee did - he killed Teish because of who she was; therefore, charging him with murder as a hate crime defines the severity of DeLee’s offense and protects the diverse nature of American society.
The majority of the ADA’s summation was devoted to explaining the prosecution’s theory of the crime. Doran reiterated the analogy he used in his opening argument of Occam’s Razor, saying that the simplest explanation of the events that took place on the night of November 14, 2008 is likely the most truthful. He then described the charges against the defendant, and referred to several aspects of the testimony and evidence that substantiate the prosecution’s theory of the crime.
First, Doran put forth the basics of the crime as Mark Cannon described them: DeLee shot his rifle, causing a bullet to graze Mark’s shoulder and hit Teish. He stated that this testimony alone would be enough for the jury to find DeLee guilty of murder as a hate crime. However, Doran said that they have much more evidence to corroborate Mark’s description of the crime, including that of the medical examiner. Doran also reminded the jury that it is natural for witnesses’ accounts to differ; people have varying perspectives and thus recall events differently. He stated that these varied accounts do not invalidate the common threads of the witnesses’ testimony, and reminded the jury to use common sense when distinguishing the aspects of the testimony that are true from those that are not.
Second, Doran highlighted several important phrases from the trial, specifically those inclusive of anti-LGBT slurs. This part of the summation was especially powerful, because Doran put the quotes, such as, “I’m not down with this faggot shit,” in a presentation that was projected onto all of the screens in the courtroom.
Third, Doran reminded the jury of ten of DeLee’s actions from which DeLee’s intent could be reasonably inferred. This list included a description of how DeLee went into the house at 411 Seymour Street, left with the rifle, walked the twenty-nine feet directly to the car, pointed the gun, and shot into the vehicle.
Next, Doran reviewed all of the categories of evidence submitted to the court —photographs, the rifle, the bullet, clothes, fingerprints, DNA, ballistics, and documents —and generally described the ways in which this evidence could be viewed to support the prosecution’s theory of the crime.
Finally, Doran addressed the testimony of Jasmine “Nicole” Gaston and Johnny “Man” Gaston. He stated that these two individuals “obviously” lied on the stand, and attributed their lies to their close relationships with DeLee. Jasmine, DeLee’s girlfriend, and Johnny, DeLee’s friend, both clearly cared about DeLee, and thus had motives to lie about what they saw on November 14, 2008. Doran also compared this testimony to that of the other witnesses, who, he said, could face retribution from the local community for truthfully testifying regarding what they observed the night of the shooting.
ADA Doran’s last words to the jury were a plea for them to cut through the extraneous and contradictory information to get to the simplest truth: that Dwight DeLee is guilty of murder in the second degree as a hate crime.
The Jury’s Duty
First, Judge Walsh described the general duties imposed upon the jury by law. He stated that the jury must determine the facts of the case, apply those facts to the law, deliberate, and render a verdict. They must make only reasonable inferences when determining the facts, and yield honest and uninfluenced conclusions.
Fundamental Principles of Law
Second, Judge Walsh described some fundamental principles of New York State law. He stated that the defendant is presumed innocent until the prosecution proves his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He described “reasonable doubt” as doubt that may arise out of contradictions in evidence, or a lack of evidence. He stated that reasonable doubt does not mean all possible doubt, nor does it mean merely that the defendant “probably” committed the crime. Additionally, Judge Walsh stated that the prosecution must prove every element of the crime to this standard, or beyond a reasonable doubt. He clarified that they must make a full evaluation of the evidence, including that of the qualified experts, whom he identified as Mills, Stoppacher, and Gentile.
Definition of the Charges
Finally, Judge Walsh explained the charges against the defendant. The defendant was indicted for murder in the second degree as a hate crime, murder in the second degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. After the close of yesterday’s proceedings, defense counsel made a motion to include in the charges against the defendant the lesser offenses of manslaughter in the first and second degrees as a hate crime, and manslaughter in the first and second degrees. Before today’s session began, Judge Walsh decided to charge the jury with the duty to determine if the defendant had committed these lesser included offenses, as well as the primary charges of the indictment.
Judge Walsh told the jury to consider the first charge of the indictment, murder in the second degree as a hate crime, and its lesser included offenses. He stated that the hate crime of murder in the second degree requires that an individual intends to kill a person because of a belief regarding that person’s sexual orientation, and kills that person or a third person. If the jury determines that DeLee is guilty of this charge, they must move on to consider the second charge against him. If not, they must proceed to analyze the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime. Manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime requires that an individual intends to cause serious physical injury to a person because of a belief regarding that person’s sexual orientation, and causes serious physical injury to that person or a third person. If the jury determines that DeLee is guilty of this crime, they must move on to consider the second charge against him. If not, they proceed to analyze the lesser included offense of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime. Manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime requires that an individual act recklessly towards a person because of a belief regarding that person’s sexual orientation, and causes the death of that person or a third person.
Next, Judge Walsh told the jury to consider the second charge of the indictment, murder in the second degree, and its lesser included offenses of manslaughter in the first degree and manslaughter in the second degree. Judge Walsh defined these crimes and the order in which the jury must assess the charge. These crimes are the same as those included in the first charge, but without the element that requires the defendant to have selected the targeted individual because of his belief regarding the individual’s sexual orientation.
Then, Judge Walsh told the jury to consider the third charge of the indictment, criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, which he defined as conscious physical possession or control over a dangerous or deadly weapon with the intent to use that weapon unlawfully against another individual.
Judge Walsh said that DeLee’s statements to the police during his interview with detectives Hack and Kilburn must have been voluntary in order for the jury to consider those statements during deliberation. For DeLee’s statements to be seen as voluntary, he must have been advised of his rights, he must have understood those rights, and he must have chosen to waive those rights. Additionally, the detectives must not have engaged in improper conduct preceding or during the interview. The judge noted that it was not necessary for the detectives to read DeLee his rights a second time during the interview, as he never left their custody.
Also, Judge Walsh clarified that the police statements, which he allowed the attorneys to read in court, were not, themselves, evidence. Judge Walsh said that, normally, he would not permit the attorneys to read these statements in court, but that he allowed them to do so such that the jury could assess the credibility of several witnesses.
Judge Walsh advised the jury regarding the process of deliberation. He stated that, during deliberation, jurors must discuss and exchange their ideas. They are not allowed to discuss the case outside of the jury room or without the presence of all of the jurors. Additionally, they are not permitted to consider the sentence for any of these crimes. The judge described that the jury would be given a verdict sheet upon which the foreman must indicate the jury’s determination on each charge. Finally, Judge Walsh stated that the jurors could ask questions, request pieces of evidence, or request testimony to be read to them, by sending notes to the judge during the deliberation process.
On two occasions, the jury was brought back into the court so that the judge could address notes with questions or requests from the jurors. The questions below are listed and described according to the order in which the questions or requests were addressed.
Note 1: The jury requested to have all evidence brought into the jury room. The judge granted this request.
Note 2: The jury asked to see all police reports and witness statements. The judge denied this request, and clarified his instruction to the jury regarding this issue. Judge Walsh stated that a witness’s statement to the police was not, itself, evidence, but that if it was read aloud during testimony, that testimony could be read to the jury.
Note 3: The jury asked for the definition of manslaughter, murder, and a hate crime. The judge read the charges to the jury a second time.
Note 4: The jury asked if “the accused” had been drinking alcohol on November 14, 2008. Judge Walsh stated that he could not answer this question; the jury had to independently reach conclusions regarding the facts of the case.
Note 5: The jury asked for “Jasmine’s statement.” Judge Walsh reiterated that police statements were not evidence, but that the jury could request to hear Jasmine’s testimony read back to them.
Note 6: The jury asked to have Jasmine’s testimony read to them; Jasmine’s testimony was read aloud.
Note 7: The jury requested to hear only the definitions of manslaughter in the first and second degrees as hate crimes. The judge read the definitions of these crimes aloud, and clarified that the charges had two elements in common, but that the difference is that manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime requires the intent to cause serious physical injury, where manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime requires recklessness.
Note 8: The jury asked to have Alyssa, Lee Lee, Doughboy, and Carlishia’s testimony read back to them. The judge noted that Lee Lee and Carlishia are the same person. Then, the judge had Doughboy, Carlishia, and Alyssa’s testimony read aloud.
Jury deliberations resume at 8:30 am tomorrow.
Show Your Support
Please send personal notes of encouragement to Lateisha’s family during this difficult time. You can email correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We can't guarantee the family will be able to reply to your emails, but we know that they'll read them and that they appreciate everyone's support. Please write!
For continued updates throughout the trial, stay tuned to all of the following sources:
the “Justice for Teish” Facebook page; and