Attorneys for suspected Route 29 killers say ‘squealers’ are liars
An attorney for one of the Route 29 murder suspects played the old switcheroo in his closing argument to jurors Tuesday, pinning the crime on a man who admitted lifting the car used in the drive-by slay.
Defense attorney Patrick O’Hara said prosecutors didn’t have physical evidence showing his client Andre Romero was inside a stolen Chrysler Sebring on Jan. 30, 2012.
However, there was plenty of car thief Louis Alvarado’s DNA inside the car – a fingerprint on the outside of the vehicle and a cigarette butt with his saliva on it – that detectives simply “turned their backs” on.
“What links my client, for sure, with that car? There’s more evidence this guy was there,” O’Hara said, fingering his pen toward Alvarado’s name on an easel.
O’Hara disputed that Romero, charged with murder along with suspected killer William “Bill Bill” Mitchell, ever opened fire on a white Ford Taurus driven by slay victim Daquan Dowling.
Mitchell and Romero sat silently in the courtroom as the prosecutor looked to deliver the kill shot that could send them to prison for life.
In a dramatic twist, after Assistant Prosecutor James Scott finished stacking up the “overwhelming evidence” against the two defendants, he pointed to them in the courtroom – Romero seated behind Mitchell – and told jurors they were similarly seated when they riddled Dowling’s car with bullets.
Mitchell was riding shotgun, Romero right behind him on the passenger’s side,when Mitchell announced he was going to “tear up the car.” They fired five times in three seconds, four shots striking the driver’s side, Scott said.
“That’s purpose to kill the driver,” he said. “Mitchell thought, ‘Maybe I got away with this.’ No he didn’t get away with this.”
Defense attorneys slammed state cooperators Anthony Marks and Jamar Square, who reached plea deals to testify that they saw Mitchell and Romero open fire on Dowling’s car along Route 29 in Trenton, as “two squealers” who colluded to make up a story in order to get out from underneath a murder rap.
Christopher Campbell, Mitchell’s attorney, told jurors the pair’s testimony was a “ridiculous story they cooked up while smoking weed and shooting the breeze” after the fatal shooting.
“It boils down to the word of Mr. Marks and Mr. Square,” he said. “Here’s the rub. How do we sort out the liars?”
While he said this wasn’t a murder, because the suspected killers didn’t intend to kill anyone, Campbell conceded it might be manslaughter.
Dowling was an unintended victim caught up in the crossfire of a brewing feud between East and South Trenton that escalated after someone from the southside crew jumped Romero’s sister, Marks testified.
Scott called the apparent beef “ridiculous” and showed a gruesome photo of the bloodied murder victim with a hole in his head, slumped over the center console.
Dowling’s family members gasped as the photo was shown on the overheard and wailed loudly as a sheriff offered tissues to them.
The shrieks from the grieving family didn’t shake Scott who said ballistics and a .357 bullet recovered from Dowling’s skull proves Mitchell fired the fatal shot.
But he saidRomero was just as responsible for the murder because he fired first. His lone shot could have just as easily struck Dowling in the head if it hadn’t been absorbed by the car frame.
Romero was thwarted from exacting revenge on an apparent South Trenton rival known only by the names “Old Boy” and “Poopie” after his gun jammed – or “stove piped,” in the words of a ballistics expert who testified at trial.
Urging jurors to drive a wedge between his client and Mitchell’s culpability, O’Hara said prosecutors tried to make Romero guilty of murder by association.
During the trial, Scott showed photos of good friends Marks, Mitchell and Romero partying and shooting pool at Dave & Busters.
“The state took the people had extreme self-interests and is basing a case against my client,” he said. “Just because you’re in photographs with your friends doesn’t make you a murderer.”
Along with three guns and a Jamaican wig that was strewn along the escape path, authorities found Mitchell’s phone lodged in the car seat cushions of the crashed, abandoned Sebring, prosecutors said.
An FBI expert analyzed the Samsung Galaxy, the apparent “case cracker,” and found it contained 218 photographs.
Scott showed jurors photos from the phone of Mitchell in the delivery room when his baby was born and others of him with Romero and Marks.
He swept aside Campbell’s claim that it may not have been his client’s phone since there were no “selfies” on it.
Defense attorneys hammered Marks and Square, pointing out their inconsistencies on the stand.
Square testified he didn’t know there were guns in the car after he got a ride from Marks when his tire caught a flat earlier in the day.
Marks said he was with Mitchell and Romero when he scooped Square at a city bodega. They went to Mitchell’s home to pick up guns prior to heading toward a liquor store in South Trenton.
In one last-ditch attempt to deflect blame from his client, Campbell said that while Square went out his way to distance himself from a gun and the murder by running away to Virginia, he couldn’t get away from a fake Jamaican wig.
Square said he wore a similar dreadlocked wig when he put on a show for “some females” outside the bodega, though he claimed he gave it back.
Marks said Mitchell wore the Rastafarian wig when the gunshots rang out.
“It appeared magically in the car and it was on Mitchell’s head?” Campbell said.