Judge grants witness protection order as state seeks to keep alleged Trenton killer locked up
A judge granted a prosecutor’s motion on Tuesday that prevents alleged killer Leroy Tutt from seeing all evidence or knowing what witnesses police have relied upon to obtain probable cause for his Aug. 5 arrest.
Tutt, 30, of Trenton, has been charged with murder and weapons offenses on allegations he shot and killed 19-year-old Nebate Anderson about 3 p.m. June 30 on Sanford Street.
Tutt is an ex-con who recently served time in state prison for unlawful handgun possession and aggravated assault. He may have been motivated by revenge when he allegedly gunned Anderson down.
As previously reported by The Trentonian, Tutt suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the butt on the afternoon of April 26 in the 600 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Police sources said Anderson was the gunman who had shot Tutt and said Anderson would have eventually been arrested in connection with that shooting if he had not been murdered.
Prosecutors filed a motion Aug. 7 seeking to keep Tutt incarcerated pretrial without bail at the Mercer County Correction Center. However, the detention hearing has been postponed till 9 a.m. Friday because Tutt’s public defender Nicole Carlo has not had enough time to review the state’s discovery evidence against her client.
Sporting an orange Mercer County inmate jumpsuit, Tutt appeared in court Tuesday morning for a motion hearing regarding a protective order that prosecutors filed on Monday. Prosecutors may seek a protective order to limit discovery if they have legitimate concerns for witness safety.
Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor James Scott on Tuesday formally asked Superior Court Judge Thomas Brown to grant the protective order, and the jurist honored the request, disregarding Carlo’s objection to the motion.
In general, a defendant is entitled to be provided with all material discovery evidence in a timely fashion, but the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Habeeb Robinson earlier this year upheld the principle of protective orders.
“In appropriate cases,” the high court ruled, “the prosecutor may apply for a protective order to redact, delay, or withhold the disclosure of materials that would expose witnesses and others to harm, hinder or jeopardize ongoing investigations or prosecutions, undermine the secrecy of informants and confidential information which the law recognizes, or compromise some other legitimate interest.”
The protective order against Tutt suggests the state may have compelling evidence and witness statements linking him to the murder of Anderson and that the state has a compelling interest to shield those witnesses from possible retaliation.
Tutt was last released from state prison on June 26, 2016, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections. He previously served time for selling drugs.
Staff writer Penny Ray contributed to this report.