Andre Taylor said he remained silent for nine years about a Braddock killing he witnessed in 2005. That changed earlier this year when Taylor, facing the possibility of a long drug sentence, called his mother from the Allegheny County Jail and asked her to tell police he wanted to talk to them.
Taylor, 24, of Braddock, told Allegheny County police in March that he was hanging out with a group of people playing dice and smoking marijuana on Center Street July 1, 2005, when three people approached and shot Jeffrey Williams, 24, according to a criminal complaint.
Friday, Taylor testified in court that Tiaron Moses, 28, of McKees Rocks, and Terrance Smith, 25, of Braddock, approached the house and pulled pistols from their waistbands. Taylor said he ran away, looked back and saw that Williams had been shot. He said he went home, smoked another marijuana cigarette — at least his fifth of the day — and fell asleep.
There was no mention of the third person, who has not been charged, according to court records.
For the prosecution, Taylor’s testimony was the key to nailing a case that otherwise appeared to have gone cold. For the defense, it reeked of suspicion — the words of a man with a criminal history of his own and a desire to get out of jail.
In the end, District Judge Anthony Saveikis sided with the prosecution and ordered Moses and Smith to stand trial on charges of homicide and conspiracy. He quashed an attempt to charge the men with gun violations, saying the statute of limitations had run out.
Defense attorneys Ken Haber and Ralph Karsh questioned Taylor extensively about his motives for testifying.
Taylor said he was being held in jail on charges that he intended to deliver heroin, an arrest that prompted officials to place a detainer preventing his release while they determined whether he had violated his probation. He also testified that police told him they would try to help him get out of jail if he testified against Moses and Smith.
Assistant District Attorney William Petulla argued to the judge that witness credibility is not an issue considered at a preliminary hearing and that the pair should be held for trial.
Mr. Karsh said, “God help us if this is enough to hold someone for court,” arguing that the prosecution did not present testimony from others who could corroborate Taylor‘s words.
Both he and Mr. Haber expressed concerns over what they described as an increase in the number of jailhouse witnesses who are providing testimony in old cases. The two said they worry that some inmates are researching old cases and providing authorities with false information with the hope of being released. They maintain in this case that their clients were not responsible for the killing.
A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said he did not wish to comment on witness credibility and did not have statistics on how often prosecutors are using testimony from inmates in homicide cases.
In the old days, Mr. Haber said, inmates used spoons to dry to dig their way out of prison.
“Today, they pick up the phone and call to give information on a case.”
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2013/07/18/Three-men-accused-in-stabbing-of-Steelers-Adams-held-for-trial/stories/201307180279#ixzz37EAqvTu6 First Published July 11, 2014 12:00 AM