Defense attorney to getaway driver: ‘You didn’t hit the brake’
Getaway driver Anthony Marks said Thursday at the murder trial of two friends that he warned one of the suspected killers not to pull the trigger as they drove down the highway in the capital city four years ago.
Marks said that when best friend William “Bill Bill” Mitchell announced to the car he planned to light up a white Ford Taurus carrying a rival along Route 29, Marks responded: “No don’t do it. Not right here.”
Mitchell did it anyway, Marks said, after his co-defendant, Andre Romero, opened fire first that fateful day in January 2012.
Twenty-three-year-old Daquan Dowling was struck in the head in a hail of bullets, while the suspected killers gunned for his passenger, Morris Satchel.
Wearing a black shirt, his head shaven and a long, scruffy beard hanging off his face, the illiterate Marks, 28, who admitted he can’t read, at times sounded like he was on auto-pilot when he testified against his friends, who are being tried together.
Security was tight inside the packed courtroom, which was tense throughout Marks’ day on the stand. His testimony was interrupted when a woman in the gallery called another spectator a “b–-.”
Sheriffs escorted five people out of the courtroom, and warned others additional outbursts would result in people being taken out in handcuffs.
Initially charged with murder along with the men he now pointed the finger at, Marks pleaded guilty to a pair of handgun charges under a plea deal with prosecutors.
He agreed to testify “truthfully” against Mitchell and Romero, whom he knew by the street name “Ceto,” in exchange for a sentence of 10 years in prison. He has to do six years before he’s up for parole.
For some time, Marks tried insulating Mitchell from the murder charge.
Marks, Mitchell and Romero were friends, after all.
Marks told jurors he knew Mitchell since they were teenagers growing up in East Trenton.
He had also been over to the home of Romero’s mother, befriending him around 2011.
Assistant Prosecutor James Scott showed pictures of the three men together, taken with Mitchell’s cell phone, which was discovered inside the stolen and crashed Chrysler Sebring used in the January 2012 murder.
The photos showed the men in happier times, partying with drinks in their hands. They were also shown shooting pool and hoops together at Dave & Busters.
But after the Dowling was shot, Marks and Mitchell lost their phones in the mad dash to get away from the murder scene, scaling the wall of the William Trent House.
Marks admitted he and Mitchell discussed that, if they were questioned by police, they’d say they were robbed of their phones and that’s why they were found at the murder scene.
But after the men were charged, Marks flipped on his best friend out of self-preservation and because Mitchell didn’t want to own up to the killing.
“I was being crossed,” Marks said. “He [said he] was gonna take the charge. He didn’t take it. I pleaded guilty to what I did.”
Marks said firmly he didn’t kill Dowling, who was shot in the head while driving with Satchel in a white Ford Taurus along Route 29 on Jan. 30, 2012.
Dowling was an unintended victim in a brewing feud between rival factions in East and South Trenton.
The “beef” escalated after Romero’s sister was jumped, Marks said.
That day, Mitchell and Romero gunned for a man known only as “Poopie,” Marks said.
Marks didn’t know Poopie’s real name, but a comment left under the obituary of Satchel, who died months later in an unrelated ATV accident, said, “RIP Poopie. Miss [you], bro.”
Marks, who wore Carhartts and a red Chicago Bulls cap the day of the murder, said he got keys to the stolen Sebring from Louis Alvarado, who lifted it outside of La Guira Bar.
Marks, Mitchell and Romero visited a deli, where they picked up Square.
While smoking a joint in the car, they went to Mitchell’s home to get guns and later to get a bottle from a liquor store in South Trenton.
Marks went inside his home and came back out with a black plastic bag, containing a .45-caliber. .357 snub-nosed and .357 Smith and Wesson.
Marks’ testimony about the guns contradicted what Square told jurors Tuesday, when he denied knowing about the guns or handling them, despite pleading guilty to a gun charge.
As the men rode out, “Bill Bill” was shotgun, Romero and Square in the backseat. Square was behind Marks, who was at the wheel.
There wasn’t a plan to shoot up anyone, Marks said.
The guns were for “in case we got into any trouble. There’s a lot of beef that goes on,” Marks said.
But as Marks described how everything unfolded, it appeared Mitchell allegedly sought out beef when he and Romero saw a car they recognized as Poopie’s near Lamberton Liquors.
He told Marks to follow behind.
Marks make a U-turn and got behind the car at a red light, prior to getting on Route 29.
That decision, defense attorney Patrick O’Hara surmised on cross examination, made Marks complicit in murder.
“I ain’t pull the trigger,” Marks said.
“But you didn’t hit the brake, either,” O’Hara said.