Accused killers caused ‘mayhem’ on Route 29
A defense attorney for one of two suspects charged in the sensational Route 29 Statehouse slay in 2012 put on a “dog food” and pony show in court Tuesday.
Defense attorney Patrick O’Hara attacked prosecutors’ case against murder suspect Andre Romero in his opening statement, telling jurors that no matter how the state dresses it up, they’ll be left with “dog food.”
“The state has two wonderful cooks,” O’Hara said. “The meal is only as good as the ingredients, and the main ingredient is dog food. You’re gonna wonder how they were ever chefs.”
O’Hara didn’t delve into specifics about why he says his client is innocent of committing the Jan. 30, 2012 murder, which closed down Route 29 for several hours.
The adrenaline-crazed attorney stopped short of bringing a unicorn into the courtroom, to complete the dog food and pony show.
Driven around in a stolen black Chrysler Sebring with its passenger-side windows down, co-defendant William “Bill Bill” Mitchell and Romero are accused of lighting up Daquan Dowling’s white Ford Taurus as it traveled northbound, in the slow lane, along Route 29 around dusk.
Mitchell was in the front passenger seat, Romero in the back, when they riddled the side of the Taurus with bullets, instantly killing Dowling after he was struck in the head, prosecutors said.
Assistant Prosecutor Bill Haumann said Dowling’s vehicle careened out of control and clipped the suspects’ Sebring as it paralleled it down the highway.
“What erupted was nothing short of mayhem,” he said.
Two other men, Jamar Square and Anthony Marks, were inside the Sebring with the alleged shooters when gunfire erupted near the Statehouse.
They accepted plea bargains to lesser charges and are expected to participate in the trial.
After the collision caused them to spin out of control, the four men abandoned their car, leaving it in drive, and fled on foot – discarding guns and clothing along their escape route, Haumann said.
In the hurried panic to get away, Mitchell forgot his cell phone under the seat, the prosecutor said.
The driverless Sebring got turned around and, motoring southbound, crashed head-on into another driver.
The Taurus continued northbound for a half-mile before slamming into yellow sand barrels near Memorial Drive.
The suspects ran toward the William Trent House on Market Street, scaling a wall and leaving behind a gun, another cell phone and a hat with attached dreadlocks, Haumann said.
The 23-year-old Dowling was left slumped over center console.
Prior to the shooting, the quartet stopped at Mitchell’s home in East Trenton, where they armed themselves with a cache of guns – a .357 Smith & Wesson for Square; a .45-caliber for Romero and a snub-nosed, semi-automatic .357 magnum revolver for Mitchell, prosecutors said.
They went to Lamberton Liquors on Cass Street in South Trenton.
While they were in the parking lot, they spotted the Ford Taurus and began following it.
Prosecutors’ case is built on photos, surveillance and what people say happened.
More than 90 people are on the witness list, but prosecutors expect to call a fraction of those people, including a State Police ballistics expert and someone from the FBI with electronics expertise.
Christopher Campbell, Mitchell’s attorney, urged jurors to take the position of “convince me.”
He believes the case will leave jurors wanting more to be firmly convinced his client was involved.
Echoing as much, O’Hara added: “Just because they say it’s so doesn’t make it so. If they it’s so is it really so?”