Friday, February 11, 2011

Jailhouse snitches not believed

For once

After a three-day trial, a Newport News man was acquitted on a murder charge Wednesday in the slaying of a man last July at the Newsome Park apartment complex in the city's Southeast section.

The 12-member jury reached its verdict at about 7:30 p.m., after about two and a half hours of deliberations. They found Ryan Frink, 20, not guilty of first-degree murder and a gun charge in the shooting death of Derron Richardson, 23, of Newport News.

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Members of the Frink family jumped up in jubilation as a court clerk read the verdict, hugging each other and drowning out the clerk's words. Some in the group supporting Richardson — including his girlfriend and mother of his children and a key prosecution witness — left the courtroom upset.

"This is no justice at all!" said the woman, Shantae Howard. "No justice at all!"

Circuit Judge David F. Pugh's courtroom had been tense before the verdict was read, with about 26 friends and family members supporting one side or the other. But there were nine police officers gathered at the courtroom — called in by a police detective to provide extra security — as well as at least six sheriff's deputies.

Throughout the trial, Frink's attorney, Sam Roots, tried to expose weaknesses in the prosecution's case, particularly that two of its key witnesses were jailhouse informants now serving nearly 100 years between them for murder and robbery charges.

Roots termed the inmates "sharks" trying to "feed their own bellies" by testifying in hopes of reductions in their own sentences. He said it defied credulity to think that Frink would arrive at the jail and "spin this whole story to a complete stranger."

"These witnesses are responsible for the deaths of people, and putting guns in front of the faces of other people," Roots told the jury. "Now they're coming here looking for you all to help them out."

The prosecution's theory tied the shooting to a burglary the day before the shooting. That is, Frink and another man were accused of burglarizing an apartment that Richardson and Howard shared, stealing a TV and video game system and video.

The theory was that burglary led to a later armed confrontation between Richardson and Frink in which Richardson was killed.

A spate of bullets was found in front of Frink's mother's home on Baughman Court — several blocks from where Richardson was found dead. One key connection, prosecutors said, was that a bullet casing not far from Richardson's body matched some of the 23 casings found in front of the Baughman Court address.

Howard was among the first witnesses in the case, saying she got a call from Frink not long after the shooting, with Frink telling her where to find Richardson.

A jailhouse informant testified that Frink told him that he and Richardson had a gun battle and that Richardson ran out of bullets and fled, with Frink running after him and shooting him to death. Another inmate testified he heard some of that conversation.

Frink also took the stand, testifying he was with others when he heard his mother's home had been shot up, and when Richardson was shot. He denied ever meeting the inmates at the jail.

Roots also pointed out that a gun residue test found no gun powder residue on Frink's hand, that a video system of a nearby school was never checked, and that Richardson's car was never searched.

He also honed in on the fact that the location of the shooting was never established, with some witnesses saying Richardson's body appeared to have been moved and was cold to the touch by the time he was found.

"There's nothing here," Roots said. "This case hasn't been proven whatsoever. It hasn't been well investigated."

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Melissa Iotti pointed out that because the jailhouse witnesses had experience with rough crime, it only makes sense that Frink confide in them. "You're going to tell the most violent people inside the jail," she said.

She said that the video system wasn't checked because there was no indication that the gun battle took place near the school field.

Original report here

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Anonymous said...

So was this justice or not justice?

bussorah said...

It's a defeat for a crooked prosecution

Anonymous said...

I only ask because I was on the jury for this case.

Anonymous said...

naw it wont justice yall just ran through that trial leavn his 4 kids without a daddy and no justice do yall job next time aint no way in hell sumbody gt off on murder in a couple months i just feel for his kids and dere mom now she gtta take care 4 kids by herself and a killer is still on the loose leavn dis case a cold case smh rip derron i love and miss u boo