Opening Statements in Herbert Hayes Murder Trial Preview Eyewitness Testimony

During opening statements in the murder trial against Herbert Hayes, prosecutors alleged Hayes stabbed John Wesley Griffin four times “with precision,” ran away, then “boasted” about it on his cellphone to a friend and to his ex-wife.

Russell Hairston, Hayes’ defense attorney, called the government’s evidence “lacking” and told jurors that no witness will testify that Hayes harmed Griffin. “The government is asking you to take a leap of faith,” he said.

Hayes, 40, is charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with the May 2012 stabbing death of 41-year-old Griffin. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne Dedjinou said Wednesday that the events preceding Griffin’s death are mostly unknown.

But make no mistake, this was no accident,” Dedjinou told the jury. “The defendant purposefully and intentionally killed [Griffin].”

According to prosecutors, on May 18 2012, Griffin visited family friends in the 1200 block of North Capitol Street Northwest; Hayes was there as well. At 9:30 that evening, Griffin was seen running down North Capitol Street, screaming for police, as Hayes chased him, prosecutors say.

Charging documents in the case say that a witness saw Hayes with a knife.

Another eyewitness is expected to testify that he saw Hayes make “punching motions” that dropped Griffin to the sidewalk. The eyewitness then heard Hayes yell, “f- the police,” according to prosecutors.

Hairston argued, though, that this witness “can’t tell the truth.”

The witness lost his job because of lies he told as a police officer in Prince George’s County. This hurts the eyewitness’ credibility, Hairston said.

Dedjinou said that cell phone records place Hayes “minutes and moments” from the stabbing. But Hairston argued that phone records only “tell you where the phone is and it doesn’t tell you where the person is.”

The trial is scheduled to resume July 8.

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