The jury charged with determining the guilt and innocence of five D.C. men charged in a series of shootings known as the “South Capitol Street Massacre” heard opening statements today, the first day of presentations.
The defendants: Orlando Carter, 22; Sanquan, 21; Jeffrey D. Best, 23; Robert Bost, 23; and Lamar Williams, 23, are charged with participating in shootings that killed five young people and injured nine more.
Wrote the Washington Post:
During more than two hours of opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Brittin said the actions of five D.C. men charged in a series of shootings were fueled by retaliation.
“This case will be very much about the victims,” said Brittin Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court. “What happens when rules of law are ignored and individuals take the law into their own hands.”
During his statement, Brittin held up a gold-colored bracelet adorned in fake diamonds. The bracelet, authorities say, went missing at a party, infuriating its owner Sanquan Carter. Hours later, the Carter brothers and Best opened fire at people outside the party. That gunfire killed Jordan Howe and injured two.
Friends and family members gasped and cried out, “Oh God!” in the crowded courtroom Tuesday after seeing pictures of the victims surrounded by pools of blood. The evidence was presented by lead prosecutor Michael Brittin in his opening statements, which lasted more than three hours.
Much of the prosecution’s case is based on the testimony of Nathaniel Simms, who has already pleaded guilty to five murder charges and two counts of conspiracy. According to prosecutors, Simms participated in all three of the shootings and is now cooperating with prosecutors as part of his plea deal.
The defendants, all between the ages of 21 and 23 years old, sat behind their attorneys in the courtroom. One of them, Jeffery Best, wore a bright red bow tie as he sat and listened to the prosecutor describe how he helped plan and carry out two of the shootings.
Brittin described the scene on South Capitol Street as “complete and utter chaos where nine people were shot within a few seconds.”
More than 100 witnesses are expected to testify in the trial that could last up to three months.
From the Washington Times:
“This case will demonstrate what happens when individuals take the law into their own hands,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Brittin “These crimes fit together like a puzzle, like a well-made piece of furniture.”
But three defense attorneys who spoke Tuesday disagreed. In their own initial remarks, they urged jurors to listen to the witnesses and question their credibility. They particularly sought to cast doubt on the expected testimony of a man who was part of the violence and is now cooperating with the government, Nathaniel Simms.
An attorney for Jeffrey Best, 23, who the government says took part in the South Capitol Street shootings, said there’s no evidence linking his client to the crime and suggested his client is being set up by Simms. An attorney for Orlando Carter, 22, also said his client is not guilty.
William Roberts, an attorney for Sanquan Carter, said the case is “not about a bracelet” but about “a story that spiraled out of control.” He said that the end of the trial the jury would “be left with more questions than answers.”
Homicide Watch will continue to publish links roundups daily throughout the trial. To submit a link, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, send it to us via Twitter at @homicidewatch, or leave it in the comments field below.