An Overbrook man convicted of first-degree murder in the accidental slaying of a court reporter is asking for a new trial.
Jayquon Massey, 23, was found guilty in the shooting death of Cheryl Wilds -- his great-aunt -- in December 2008. He was sentenced to a mandatory prison term of life without parole.
On Thursday, his newly appointed attorney, Scott Coffey, filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that Massey's trial attorney was ineffective.
According to the filing, defense attorney Noah Geary, who represented Massey, specifically asked the trial judge not to allow the jurors to consider voluntary manslaughter in its deliberations, even though, Mr. Coffey wrote, it was an appropriate charge for them to be given.
Wilds was walking to her home on Bonvue Street on Nov. 21, 2007, with her Thanksgiving groceries when she was shot in the neck.
Massey testified at trial that he fired the gun, and that he was aiming at men in a passing red SUV who had robbed him at gunpoint the day before. He said the men had threatened him earlier that afternoon and he was afraid. He also testified that one of the unidentified men fired at him from the SUV.
Even though both the judge and prosecutor at trial said they believed the jury should be given voluntary manslaughter as an option, Mr. Geary argued against it.
In Mr. Coffey's petition, he wrote that a voluntary manslaughter charge was "absolutely mandated."
Massey presented a self-defense argument to the jury, but Mr. Coffey said voluntary manslaughter could have met the definition for "imperfect self-defense, that defendant unreasonably believed that circumstances existed that would have justified shooting at the occupants of the red SUV.
"Trial counsel's rationale was that he believed that the jury would not believe defendant's claim that 'he was in fear of his life, and that it [the shooting] was unreasonable,' " Mr. Coffey wrote.
He continued, saying that such a determination must be made by the jury.
"Trial counsel cannot speak for or read the mind of a jury," Mr. Coffey wrote.
A spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's office had no comment.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620.