The trial began Thursday for three young men accused of killing a Slippery Rock University student last year who was selling marijuana out of his parents’ home in Kennedy.
Brandon Lind, 19, of Swissvale and Devele Reid, 24, of Hazelwood have chosen to have their charges decided by the judge presiding over the case, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Philip A. Ignelzi.
Jon Lee, 17, however, is having the charges against him heard by a jury.
Jordan Coyner, 20, was shot and killed on June 18, 2012, after a group of young men arrived at his parents’ home to rob him, police said.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Berquist said Mr. Reid pulled the trigger, but that Mr. Lind and Jon Lee are guilty of second-degree murder because they participated in the robbery that led to Coyner’s death.
“Devele Reid was the person who took the gun, pulled the trigger and took Jordan Coyner’s life,” Mr. Berquist said during his opening statement in the Lee case. But, he continued, the others helped hatch the scheme.
The three defendants, along with Mr. Lind’s younger brother, Michael Shearn, 17, and Dmetrei McCann, 18, who joined them, targeted Coyner, Mr. Berquist said, because they knew he sold marijuana and had a lot of money.
Mr. Lind drove the group to Coyner’s parents’ home in Kennedy, and he and his brother waited in the car while the others went to the house. Mr. Reid went inside with a gun, the prosecutor said, while Jon Lee and Mr. McCann waited outside.
There was a gunshot from inside, Mr. Berquist continued, and Mr. Reid ran out. The other two joined him, racing back to the car. They were arrested a short time later.
Aaron Sontz, who represents Jon Lee, told the jury the most important facts of the case are not in dispute.
“Jon Lee did not kill anybody. He didn’t,” Mr. Sontz said. “They’re proceeding under some legal technicality — under the theory of accomplice liability. That he is guilty because of something somebody else did.”
The attorney said it was Mr. Lind who initially targeted Coyner.
“Jordan Coyner was his drug dealer.”
Mr. Sontz also said that two of the people involved in the robbery — Michael Shearn and Mr. McCann, “are conspicuously absent.”
Mr. McCann has an agreement with the DA for his case to be transferred to juvenile court, while Michael Shearn was never charged at all.
Mr. Sontz referred to both of them as a “corrupt source — witnesses who have essentially been bought by the commonwealth.
“These witnesses’ testimony is so polluted, so tainted by their own self-interest, you have to take it with caution.”
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.