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City Grill Shooting Trial Details – Inside The Courtroom

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For some people, their court experience is limited to a parking violation, or a small town court incident. This however, is no small ordeal and the minute you enter the courtroom the atmosphere is starkly different. A smaller courtroom than I envisioned, is full of media, more police than I deem necessary, and grieving families there to watch every minute. The mood is tense and everyone whispers while they wait for the judge’s arrival. Upon the trial beginning, as the jury walked in I couldn’t help but make a few observations.

For starters, not a SINGLE jury member is African American. Now from what I know, a ‘fair’ jury is to be made up of a defendant’s peers, and I saw not one person that looked as though they could relate to being a young African American adult in the City of Buffalo. While there were some younger jury members that look to be around the age of McCray, the majority looked to be middle class white adults. The question this raises for me is, will they be swayed by the stereotypical images surrounding the inner city, or the stereotypes surrounding what goes on in a predominantly African American nightclub?I know I’m making assumptions based strictly on appearance, but you’re trying to tell me that out of all the eligible jury members in our city, they didn’t deem it fair that AT LEAST ONE of them should be African American?

Moving into witness examination, it was fascinating to watch prosecution and defense question the same person and paint such different pictures of them. Perhaps one of the most important, and damaging testimonies for McCray, was given yesterday by a woman named Rickita Latham. Latham testified that she was barely ten feet away from McCray and witnessed him first hand, shoot Willie McCaa, and DeMario Vass, as well as from a distance, watch him shoot Tiffany Wilhite as well. For prosecution this was a star witness. They portrayed her as a frightened bystander who endured the terrible fortune of having to watch the lives of people she loved end. She saw everything up close, and when asked if there was ANYYY doubt that McCray was the gunman, she responded with “No, I’m positive.”To me, it seemed that defense couldn’t work this one in their favor; however I quickly learned that while the defense took a major hit here, they were not taking it lying down. In order to shake her credibility McCray’s attorney immediately brought up Latham’s extensive criminal history including charges of larceny and endangerment of a child, making sure not to leave out the fact that currently,she was out on bail. Defense also clung to the fact that it took Latham nearly four months to come forward with information, questioning if her motives were not related to helping the victims, but rather she was motivated to lessen her current pending criminal charges.

When it comes down to the evidence in this trial, since a lot of aspects rely on hearsay, physical evidence is very important. One physical piece introduced yesterday was also in my opinion, quite detrimental for McCray. Deputy Joseph Higgins from the Erie County Sheriff’s office testified yesterday to validate the authenticity of the recorded phone calls from McCray’s time in the Erie County Holding Center that the prosecution was going to play. Over the series of calls played, some of McCray’s words sent not only shock waves through the spectators, but I’m sure they rattled the jury and defense as well. One clip had the person McCray was talking to saying “Your gonna know who’s telling on you…its all gona come out in trial” Another with McCray saying “Ya know, you make your bed you lay in it” and another with McCray repeating he “doesn’t care about anything as long as it doesn’t have an L in front of it (life sentence) other than that he doesn’t care.” While many of these calls could be considered ‘up for interpretation’…As a viewer, I interpret them as quite incriminating.

For my first time attending a trial of this caliber, I found the whole experience to be incredibly interesting. I’ve been following the details of the trial but to see it firsthand puts an entirely new spin on it.  The actions of that night in August are shaping the lives of so many people, and while I believe the victims are the main concern, as a writer I keep in mind this is also affecting the rest of the life of the accused and his family as well. Any way you look at it this case is shaping not only them, but our city as well, so stay updated on the latest breaks in the case.

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