Herbert Hayes, the man on trial for stabbing and killing 41-year-old John Wesley Griffin, told jurors Wednesday that he was not responsible for Griffin’s death, and that witnesses in the trial “were tricked and coerced against me.”
“I don’t know that John dude like that,” Hayes said. “I don’t know that dude to do anything like that to him.”
Hayes is charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with Griffin’s death. On May 18, 2012, Griffin suffered four stab wounds, including two to his back; he was found in the 1200 block of North Capitol Street Northwest around 9:45 p.m.
Prosecutors say Hayes stabbed Griffin during an altercation that occurred after they both visited a residence in the Tyler house apartment building. Hayes told jurors Wednesday that he did not stab Griffin, nor did they have an altercation.
What Hayes said did happen was that on May 18 he received a call from a man named Keith Wills asking him to meet near North Capitol Street NW to pick up $7,000. Hayes and Wills sold clothing together, Hayes said, and it was time to collect his half of the profits. After some initial miscommunication, Hayes met his friend in the evening and collected his profits in a brown duffel bag, he told jurors.
But on the stand Wills testified differently. He said Hayes called him and asked where to find Griffin; shortly afterward, Hayes “popped up on a bike.” Wills said that he saw Hayes with a knife, adding, “everybody carries weapons” in that area. Wills testified that later that night he saw Griffin and Hayes together. He said he saw them talking at first, “then I closed my eyes,” he said.
On the stand Wednesday, Hayes told jurors that prosecutors had “got a hold of Wills,” and that Wills did not see him with a knife, because he didn’t have one.
Hayes also said that testimony of Cornelius Johnson, a security officer at Tyler House apartments, could not be trusted.
Johnson had testified that while patrolling the area on the night of the murder, he saw Griffin run into the street, yelling for police, with Hayes chasing him. Johnson said that when Griffin reached the street, he turned to Hayes and raised his fists.
“I saw [Hayes] throw what seemed like forward strikes to [Griffin’s] upper body,” Johnson said. “Then I saw [Hayes] stand over [Griffin]; I saw a blade in his right hand.”
Johnson said he chased Hayes for several blocks, but Hayes got away.
Hayes told jurors that Johnson was “one officer that had a grudge against me.”
“We was messin’ with the same women and he wanted me out of the building,” Hayes said.
Marvelette Speller, Hayes’ ex-wife, testified that Hayes called her around ten times on the night of the murder, and on the last call told her he stabbed someone. Hayes said he may have stabbed the man six times, Speller told the court.
Hayes testified that he never called his ex-wife that night, but after prosecutors showed him the phone records, he amended his statement.
“We don’t have no relationship,” Hayes said of his ex-wife. “I’m going to call this lady and tell her I killed someone?”
Closing arguments are expected to be heard in the case Thursday.
Ivan Natividad contributed reporting to this story.