Defense attorney cross examines detective in Trenton murder trial
Everyone in the courtroom kept waiting for the haymaker that never came as defense attorney Edward Heyburn cross examined the lead detective in Enrico Smalley Jr.’s murder in July 2014.
If anything was true about Heyburn leading up to trial, it was that he pulled no punches plotting out his pretrial strategy for how he planned to defend suspected killer Shaheed Brown against a murder rap.
He was going to blame another man, Alvie “King” Vereen, for killing Smalley on orders of a dead man, Rodney Sutphin. His accusations frayed the nerve of Sutphin’s grandmother, who blasted the defense attorney in an interview with The Trentonian.
But in the courtroom, when the lights have been bright, Heyburn has opted for jabs when his hands haven’t tied behind his back by Judge Andrew Smithson.
Smithson’s rulings have tended to go against Heyburn, crippling his third-party guilt defense, and infuriating Brown’s grandmother, Dorothy Williams.
“Listening to the judge and prosecutor — they are all that we hear,” she said after court. “The judge and the prosecutor, they are not giving our lawyer a fair shake in the courtroom. Every time our lawyer speaks up, they have to pull him in a corner.
There’s 12 more minds in the courtroom, and I hope they acknowledge and see how this court case is coming along. It is not fair to the defendant.”
A “huge” decision by the judge, Heyburn said, prevented him from asking State Police Detective Joseph Itri questions about a statement witness John “Buck” Meyers gave the detective allegedly implicating Smalley in a murder.
When Heyburn tried to go there Tuesday, he was quickly shut down by an objection from Assistant Prosecutor Brian McCauley. The attorneys had a sidebar to discuss it and Heyburn was forced to drop the line of questioning.
“My point was that the state withheld that there was a second statement by John Meyers,” Heyburn said. “It was important because there were other people who had motives to kill Enrico and the state covered it up.”
McCauley acknowledges Itri did take a statement from Meyers in which he accused Smalley of committing a murder. But he was hard and loose with the facts if he had any at all. For the record, Meyers denied in an interview with The Trentonian ever telling Itri that Smalley committed a murder.
McCauley called some of his counterpart’s insinuations regarding the murder Smalley did or did not commit a “fishing expedition.” Heyburn is hoping to catch and hook one juror with enough reasonable doubt that his client, a former Newark gang member with a number of violent convictions, did not kill Smalley outside of La Guira Bar in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2014.
Getting Irti to admit anything favoring Brown was nearly impossible. Heyburn’s cross examination of the detective resembled more of a dance around the ring than a slugfest.
Itri swept aside Heyburn’s questions about Vereen and whether he appeared on surveillance reaching for something tucked into his waistband seconds before Smalley was shot.
The detective denied Vereen was reaching for anything. Then when Heyburn stopped the footage and showed Itri a screen grab he contended showed Vereen appearing to tuck something back into his waistband shortly after the shooting, the detective responded the video was inconclusive,
“I can’t tell,” Itri said.
Heyburn turned his focus to Rodney Sutphin, the man he claims ordered Smalley murdered as payback for a murder Smalley allegedly committed.
He asked Itri why, as the lead detective, he didn’t interview Sutphin himself. Itri responded that investigative duties were split among capable homicide task force detectives.
Heyburn and Itri sparred about what Rodney Sutphin told the detectives.
Itri said his colleagues relayed Rodney Sutphin’s statement did not appear to match up with him walking with Vereen and then in the opposite direction of Vereen when he stepped out of view of the surveillance cameras.
“I can say what he said doesn’t appear to match the video,” Itri said of the statement Sutphin gave investigators.