Jury hung in Isiah Greene murder trial in Trenton
TRENTON >> The jury foreman said everything without saying much at all.
“Further discussion will be futile,” he told Judge Robert Billmeier around noon Friday.
Twenty hours of deliberations could not un-hang the jury, which was up against a self-imposed deadline in suspected killer Isiah Greene’s murder trial. Many jurors were unable to return next week to continue deliberating the case. So Judge Robert Billmeier had little choice but to declare a mistrial.
That meant there would be no verdict – and thusly – no resolution for the family of slain high-ranking Bloods gang member Quaadir “Ace” Gurley, who was shot eight times in the early-morning hours of July 21, 2013 in the courtyard of the Donnelly Homes housing complex.
Assistant Prosecutor James Scott was succinct when he emerged from the courtroom.
“We’re trying him again,” he said. “I think we have a strong case.”
One female juror, hurrying to leave the courthouse, declined to comment as she rushed to the elevator. Others spoke with attorneys about how their trial tactics might have impacted their ability to reach a verdict. Jurors hadn’t emerged from the room by 1:50 p.m. and had apparently been led out of the courthouse through a Houdini door numerous sheriff’s officers said did not exist.
The Trentonian was unable to query 11 jurors about their feelings on the case because they were corralled and led away from a reporter who had posted outside the same door jurors entered and exited through for the duration of the trial.
For Greene, it is back to the county jail where he has been since his arrest in November 2013. He appeared dejected as the jurors left the courtroom, slumping back in his chair and pursing his lips.
“Nobody wants to do it again,” defense attorney Mark Fury said of his client’s reaction. “He hoped it would be over and that he could go on with his life.”
While Gurley’s family was present throughout the trial, no one was in court when jurors walked into the courtroom for the final time to inform the judge they were deadlocked. They had emerged about an hour before, passing a note to the judge, saying as much.
Billmeier ordered jurors back into the deliberation room to see if anyone changed their minds. They didn’t.
The jury foreman said the panel “profoundly regretted” it was unable to arrive at a verdict, setting up a second clash in the retrial between Scott and defense attorney Mark Fury.
Fury has treated gang murder trials in Mercer County like a personal game of hangman, spotting jurors several letters while daring them to decipher the words “guilty” or “not guilty.”
He did as much in the infamous first trial of Latin Kings gang leader Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete and he did as much for Greene despite what some legal observers have opined appeared to be overwhelming DNA evidence of Greene’s guilt.
“I’m very satisfied that the jury took into account all the relevant facts and simply could not agree on what happened on that night,” Fury said. “This is exactly the kind of case that should be presented to a jury. That the state’s evidence was not sufficient to produce a verdict rings loudly.”
Greene’s blood was found at the Donnelly Homes housing complex and a scientist testified the match to his profile was astronomical.
Still, the jurors were unable to come to a conclusion, at least one seemingly swayed by Greene’s third-party guilt defense in which he took the stand and accused cops of planting evidence while also accounting for why his blood was present at the housing complex.
Prosecutors’ explanation was that Greene bled after he shot himself in the foot while shooting Gurley.
Greene took the stand and offered a different explanation, saying he had been struck by a wayward bullet, possibly one that had ricocheted off buildings when another gunman opened fire on Gurley. He said he saw the gunman run past him but he didn’t get a good glimpse of his face.
The seeds for a hung jury were sowed even before that, when a 28-year-old woman who lived next to Gurley testified she saw a dark-skinned black man dressed in all-white with a gun in his hands fleeing the housing complex shortly after gunfire erupted. She admitted on the stand that she did not believe Greene to be dark-skinned, offsetting the fact Greene had also been dressed in white clothing the day of Gurley’s murder.
However, he said he was wearing a white T-shirt whereas the shooter was reportedly clad in a white tank top.
Greene explanation for why he was at the housing complex was that he had been there to convince a friend to take him and some friends to a nightclub in Philadelphia after they had been drinking at an all-white affair on Highland Avenue. He said they didn’t want to drive to Philly for fear of getting caught by the cops, but they still drove over to the housing complex.
Onlookers were stunned by the hung jury. That included Greene’s arch-nemesis, defense attorney Caroline Turner, who was present in the courtroom when the judge declared a mistrial. Turner sat behind the prosecutor, in the first bench of the courtroom gallery. Greene locked eyes with Turner, a moment of seething disgust that paralleled Greene’s reaction to the non-verdict.
His relatives, too, looked on stunned at the decision.
A woman who refused to give her name but identified herself as Greene’s sister had said minutes before her brother was going to “be another Keith Wells-Holmes.” She was referring to the Trenton man who was acquitted this year for the January 2013 murder of city graffiti artist Andre Corbett.
Greene’s name came up repeatedly during Well-Holmes’ trial as Turner scapegoated Greene, saying as part of a third-party guilty defense he was the more likely murderer – not Wells-Holmes in Corbett’s death, which occurred six months to the day before Gurley was murdered. Greene’s DNA had been found on a can inside the getaway car, but he was never charged and got on the stand and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Wells-Holmes, who has been described as a “hanger-on” with Greene’s Sanhican Drive crew, was present in Mercer County criminal court earlier this week for portions of jury deliberations.
Turner said she believed her former client was “concerned” about the outcome. She didn’t elaborate. But she didn’t have to.
As a sheriff’s officer shackled Greene’s hands, the prosecutor, Scott, asked the judge to maintain bail at $500,000 cash.
Greene has pending attempted murder and drug charges in two separate cases but has posted the combined $150,000 on those files.
Billmeier told Greene he would consider at a later date whether to alter his bail following the mistrial.
Greene simply replied, “All right,” before being led out of the courtroom.