Longtime friends ready to testify against defendant in 2012 Trenton murder

Four men plan to point the finger at Zaire Jackson for the 2012 murder of Irvin “Swirv” Jackson, prosecutors disclosed at a pretrial hearing Wednesday.

Their names are Casey Corker, Tiemear Lewis, Robert Patterson and Seption Diggs.

Some witnesses knew and grew up with Zaire Jackson in the same neighborhood in Trenton. Many have checkered pasts.

One contends he was with Jackson inside a city residence that was sprayed up by bullets, allegedly by a group of men that included Swirv, the night before he was gunned down April 9, 2012, in broad daylight in Moses Alley near North Hermitage Avenue.

Another claims Jackson, who is not related to Swirv, threatened him in a phone conversation some time after the murder.

This all came out at a preliminary hearing, held before Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier, to determine whether a Wade hearing should be held for Jackson, 17 at the time he allegedly killed Swirv. He was known on the streets by the nicknames “Philly” and “Cory,” a detective said.

Members of Swirv’s family packed inside the courtroom for the hearing, which stretched into the late afternoon.

After watching video-taped recordings of statements witnesses gave to detectives and hearing testimony from a lead detective in the murder case, Billmeier decided police had not led witnesses to implicate Jackson and there was no need for a Wade hearing, which are held to flesh out potential issues regarding witness identification of a suspect.

Veteran Trenton Police Detective Scott Peterson, who was assigned to the homicide unit at the time of Swirv’s murder, spent much of the day on the stand testifying about statements he took from the four men.

In almost all cases, the men were hesitant to tell police about what they saw the day Swirv was killed and did not come forward until later.

Jackson’s attorney, Steven Lember, questioned the witnesses’ motives and evolving recollections of the day, especially Corker, who was one of the people who identified Jackson as the shooer. Earlier this year, he struck a plea agreement with prosecutors to resolve attempted murder charges.

In January, Corker, one of two people implicated in a botched robbery April 12, 2013 that led to the shooting of two men who were sitting in a vehicle on Oakland Street, pleading guilty to two counts of robbery and a weapons offense count for a 15-year state prison sentence. As part of the agreement, he agreed to testify against Jackson.

However, Corker’s commitment to testifying waffled in the past, Lember said.

Last year, Corker sent letters to Jackson as well as Lember indicating he planned on recanting his identification of Jackson as the shooter.

“This is a witness who vacillated depending on who he was communicating with,” Lember said.

In a taped statement with detectives, Corker picked Jackson out of an eight-person photo lineup, Peterson testified.

Corker had initially told police he did not see anything when he was questioned about the murder on scene, where a large crowd had gathered by the time Peterson arrived.

By that time, paramedics were loading Swirv, who had been shot in the head, onto a gurney and were preparing to transport him to the hospital.

Swirv was found feet from a running Jeep where collapsed after he was shot. A baseball cap he wore was discovered on the blood-spattered ground in the alley way, near bullet fragments. Police, however, found no spent shell casings, Peterson said.

Peterson said Corker told him he had tended to Swirv after he got shot. While Corker said he heard gunshots, he did not see Jackson get shot, Peterson said.

Corker’s story changed about a month later, when he found himself in lockup at Trenton Police headquarters for minor charges, Peterson said.

Peterson recalled a superior called him May 14, 2012 to tell him Corker was in custody.

Peterson headed to the station. Corker told the detective he would provide information about Swirv’s murder, but in exchange he didn’t want to go to the county jail.

Peterson said he could not make any promises but told him to tell him what he knew.

Corker said he saw an individual he knew from the block chasing Swirv down the street. He didn’t know his name but he had been with him at an Easter Sunday cookout at a park on Edgewood Avenue across from Cadwalader Elementary School the day before the murder.

Jackson fought with another individual Corker identified as “Kev,” Peterson said. Swirv was also at the cookout. Corker told the detective he was familiar with the shooter’s face and could pick him out of a lineup.

Peterson prepared an eight-person photo array and handed it off to another detective to show Corker. Corker selected No. 6, Peterson said, which was a mugshot of Jackson.

Corker was asked why he had picked out that picture, Peterson said, and responded, “’Cause I seen him when he did it.” Corker said he was “100 percent” sure the individual he picked out of the lineup was the shooter.

Lember questioned the detective about Corker changing his story.

“That’s not uncommon for people in the streets to say, ‘I didn’t see anything’ and they did,” Peterson said.

Lember said he was concerned about Corker’s “flip-flop nature.”

Like Corker, Lewis, who is also known as Timear according to online court records, had also found himself locked up at Trenton Police headquarters some time after Swirv’s murder.

He told Peterson during a video-recorded statement played in court he was also at a cookout when a fight broke out between “Cory” and Lewis’ cousin, “Kev.”

While the two tussled, a silver revolver fell out of Jackson’s pants. Police believe it is the same gun Zaire Jackson used to kill Swirv.

Later that night, Lewis said, as payback for the fight earlier in the day, a group of men including Swirv shot up a Murray Street residence where Zaire Jackson had been staying. Lewis wasn’t with the group but claims he had heard as many as 20 gunshots in the neighborhood that night.

A couple hours after Swirv was killed, Lewis said one of the men who shot up the Murray Street home was saddled with regret.

“If we would have never went up there, this wouldn’t have happened,” he told Lewis.

Patterson told police he was inside the Murray Street home with Jackson when Swirv and his posse arrived, Peterson said. Patterson claimed a shot whizzed past Jackson, nearly striking him in the head.

Diggs told detectives he was with Swirv the day he was murdered. He saw Jackson charge at him and Swirv with a gun. Diggs turned around and ran. Jackson let off a round.

Diggs said he found out Swirv had been killed after he got a phone call from his mom.

Diggs also claimed that some time after the murder, he spoke to Jackson on the phone. Jackson warned him to keep his mouth shut or he would be next.

Diggs told detectives he did not want to step forward with information about Swirv’s killer because he feared being labeled a “snitch.”

“I don’t like to be called no snitch,” he said. “I don’t want that to be my name out there.”

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