Suspected gunman in Army vet’s murder gets new attorney, trial will go forward
Danuweli Keller didn’t call Saul.
He called Mark “Hung Jury” Fury – a man who has represented convicted killer and former Latin Kings leader Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete as well as Isiah Greene, who is accused of gunning down high-ranking Bloods leader Quaadir “Ace” Gurley.
Sporting Kanye West-like aviator shades inside the building, Fury walked through the courthouse to an interview room to speak with Keller prior to a pretrial hearing Tuesday ahead of the September murder trial.
Fury was appointed by the public defender’s office to represent the suspected gunman following a series of lawyer blunders – including the suspension of former attorney Richie Roberts – that left Keller attorney-less.
A second attorney last month withdrew from the case after he told a judge he could no longer represent Keller because his family reneged on fully paying a retainer fee.
Keller is being tried alongside Phobus Sullivan and Mack Edwards for the execution-style slaying of Dardar Paye, a Liberian immigrant and U.S. veteran who was kidnapped, robbed and shot inside the basement of a Monmouth Street home on Jan. 16, 2011 in Trenton.
Paye’s body was placed in garbage bags and stuffed in the trunk of a Buick, which one of the suspects drove while attempting to dispose of the body.
The three men are also accused of carjacking, kidnapping and robbing another city man months before the murder.
The trial for the three suspects starts in late September, while defendants Williams Brown and Abdutawab Kiazolu are being tried separately.
A sixth man named in an indictment has admitted his role in Paye’s fatal shooting and struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against the men at trial.
The men were apprehended following a high-speed car chase involving three vehicles – one carrying Paye’s body – that began in Trenton and ended in Pennsylvania, where police used spike streets to stop some of the fleeing suspects, prosecutors said.
Outlining the case against the men, prosecutors said they also plan to call Alfonso Slaughter to the stand to testify about being taken into the basement of the same home, strapped to a chair and robbed at gunpoint of jewelry and cash on Halloween night 2010.
He freed himself, escaped and gave authorities a detailed statement about the terrifying ordeal, prosecutors said.
If the trial resembles the pretrial hearing, attorneys are expected to argue for argument’s sake.
No one was more prone to that than Fury, who has earned his nickname by gridlocking jurors in Negrete’s first trial and again at Greene’s trial last year.
Fury raised hackles Tuesday about whether prospective jurors should be informed in a synopsis about the case at jury selection that Keller resided in Trenton.
“That fact that someone lives in Trenton is prejudicial,” Fury said, invoking a catchall phrase defense attorneys fondly use.
He said the capital city invokes images of the “gang wars from five years ago,” and that he did not want prospective jurors to think, “‘Oh, four or five black guys who live in Trenton. Where else would they live?’”
Fury proposed changing the synopsis to include the words “do or did reside in Trenton.”
Michael Grillo, an assistant prosecutor who is trying the case alongside assistant prosecutor Michelle Gasparian, turned to the back of the courtroom and smirked at Fury’s suggestion.
Fury joked that he hoped the prosecutor is as jovial when raising objections at trial.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors also quibbled about the crafting of two questions regarding witness rap sheets that are intended to weed out biased jurors from the panel.
The mundanity of the hearing was broken up briefly when it was revealed that Edwards was transferred to a detention center in Essex County because he was one of 12 inmates involved in a scuffle at the Mercer County Correction Center.
Edwards is not facing charges over the fight, his attorney Mark Davis said.
Judge Robert Billmeier plans to reach out to the county jail warden about relocating Edwards to Mercer County prior to the start of trial.
Davis said he needs his client closer so they can prepare.