Brother of slain Mercer corrections officer recounts horror of banquet hall murder

Life was good for Carl Batie.

The former corrections officer had a flourishing career. He had just bought a new BMW and planned to take it for a spin with his brother, Karshawn, to the Baldassari Regency banquet hall on Nov. 10, 2012.

The two brothers were a few years apart but inseparable whether at home or in the bathroom. They headed to the banquet hall around 10 p.m. for a party celebrating the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Maurice Skillman

Maurice Skillman

When they arrived, Carl flaked out $50 to pay both he and his brother’s cover charge.

“He treated me,” Karshawn said on the witness stand Thursday.

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Trenton killer gets 30 years, but victim’s family lost their ‘glue’

She was the strongest of her five sisters, a “rock of knowledge” and the “family glue,” who transcended her hardscrabble upbringing.

“She was the rationalization of our dismal existence,” Rose Chapman, the younger sister of murder victim Keisha Alexander, said Thursday at sentencing for her sister’s killer.

Jorge Rodriguez, 22, was a “soulless, rhythmless child” who could have made his life better but instead gave into his own abuse-filled past.

Jorge Rodriguez

Jorge Rodriguez

His defense attorney, Kathleen Redpath-Perez, said he was sexually abused as a child and spent most of his life in the care of child welfare officials. He was reunited with his mother at 16 and graduated from Nottingham High School in Hamilton but later found himself in trouble.

They came from tough backgrounds but led very different lives. Alexander was a 49-year-old phlebotomist. Rodriguez was a serial burglar who owned eight convictions as a juvenile.Read more

Asking jurors about ‘Making a Murderer’ in Trenton homicide retrial a bad idea, experts say

Lady Justice is supposed to be blind.

Prosecutors and Mercer County Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson, however, may be slipping off the blindfold and tipping the scales in an upcoming murder trial, legal experts said.

Maurice Skillman

Maurice Skillman

Smithson has indicated he will allow prospective jurors in the murder retrial of two Trenton men accused of gunning down off-duty Mercer County corrections officer Carl Batie to be questioned about whether they watched “Making a Murderer.”

The hit Netflix docuseries chronicled the life of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin convict who has been held out as the poster child for flaws in the criminal justice system.Read more

No success in murder trials could impact nomination of Mercer County prosecutor

Shaheed Brown is shaping up to be the new “Boom Bat” of Mercer County.

Brown’s murder case has drawn comparisons to convicted murderer and Latin Kings leader Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete because of the difficulties prosecutors have had trying the cases.

Shaheed Brown listens to testimony from State Police Detective Joseph Itri. Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian

Shaheed Brown listens to testimony from State Police Detective Joseph Itri. Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian

It has also shined a bright light on a spate of mistrials and acquittals that have legal experts debating the way prosecutors try homicide cases in Mercer County and whether a “string of bad luck” could impact the future of Angelo Onofri.Read more

Hung again: Shaheed Brown jury can’t reach decision for second time

Shaheed Brown listens to testimony from State Police Detective Joseph Itri. Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian

Shaheed Brown listens to testimony from State Police Detective Joseph Itri. Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian

Enrico Smalley Jr’s brother crumpled on a bench outside of the courtroom, unable to hold back bloodcurdling shrieks that echoed through the hallways of Mercer County criminal court.

That was hours before the second trial of former Newark gang member Shaheed Brown ended in mistrial for the second time in six months.

Smalley’s family spent most of Friday outside of Judge Andrew Smithson’s courtroom, hoping for the best, preparing for the worst and reconciling that they would likely be back here again in a few months after a jury hinted Thursday it was deadlocked.Read more

Trenton man at center of defense was arrested with Shaheed Brown in 2014

When a former Newark gang member befriended a city man, the last thing he could have envisioned was being the individual a defense attorney would accuse of pulling off what a prosecutor described this week as the brutal assassination of a Ewing man.

But that is the position Alvie Vereen is in, testing the strength of his friendship with suspected killer Shaheed Brown.

The two were said at trial to be close, Assistant Prosecutor Brian McCauley suggesting Vereen followed Brown around like a “puppy dog” outside of a city bar that became the scene of a grisly murder.

Shaheed Brown listens to testimony from State Police Detective Joseph Itri. Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian

Shaheed Brown listens to testimony from State Police Detective Joseph Itri. Gregg Slaboda - The Trentonian

Brown is on trial for a second time for allegedly gunning down Enrico Smalley Jr. on July 12, 2014, outside of La Guira Bar.

While it has been asked to access the credibility of a third-party guilt defense implicating Vereen, the jury does not know Brown and Vereen were arrested together in Newark for an alleged carjacking, about a month after Smalley was gunned down, according to sources with knowledge of the arrest.Read more

Ewing man’s bail hearing cancelled over attorney conflict

The bail hearing for a Ewing man accused of gunning down Jermaine “Mooky” Johnson was moved to next week because an attorney said she was unable to represent him.

Jermaine "Mooky" Johnson (Facebook photo)

Jermaine “Mooky” Johnson (Facebook photo)

Caroline Turner, an attorney for 32-year-old Jamar McCoy, said it would be inappropriate for her to argue the Ewing man’s bail because she represents Johnson’s brother in another criminal matter.

Judge Peter Warshaw agreed to push back McCoy’s bail hearing until Monday. He is charged with murder and weapons offenses for allegedly gunning down Johnson, 26, on April 26, while he sat inside of a Nissan Murano parked in the driveway of a Hillcrest Avenue residence.Read more

Teen arrested for killing Trenton teen Ciony Kirkman could be tried in adult court

Prosecutors will try a city teen accused of fatally shooting 16-year-old Ciony Kirkman as an adult, officials confirmed.

Ciony Kirkman (contributed photo)

Ciony Kirkman (contributed photo)

The 17-year-old boy has been charged with murder, six counts of aggravated assault and weapons offenses. His name and photo have not been released because of his age.

Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, said prosecutors will ask a judge to allow them to try the teen as an adult. Prosecutors have 30 days to ask for the waiver to adult court, she said.Read more

Defense attorney says his client ‘caught in crossfire’ between judge, newspaper’s feud

An attorney for a Trenton man on trial for murder said a judge has jeopardized his client’s right to a fair trial over a vendetta with a newspaper reporter.

Edward Heyburn

Edward Heyburn

Defense attorney Edward Heyburn said in court papers filed last week that his client, former Newark gang member Shaheed Brown, has found himself  “caught in the crossfire” of a public feud between Judge Andrew Smithson and The Trentonian, which was reignited last week when the judge closed the courtroom to discuss critical comments Heyburn made about the lead detective in the case.

Heyburn said his client’s Sixth Amendment rights were being infringed upon by the spat.

The Trentonian requested Heyburn’s motion last week but was told by court officials that Smithson had to approve its release before it could be made public.Read more

Suspect in multi-defendant murder trial of U.S. vet Dardar Paye asks for separate trial

Two of four Liberian men who were expected to be tried together next year in the execution-style slaying of a U.S. Army veteran could be tried separately depending on how a judge rules.

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