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Murder suspect denies shooting

Testimony in Stanley murder trial wraps up

Friday, March 15, 2013
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James M. Wells, left, of Brooklyn, is on trial for murder in the June 12, 2011, fatal shooting of Schenectady High School basketball standout Eddie Stanley, right.
James M. Wells, left, of Brooklyn, is on trial for murder in the June 12, 2011, fatal shooting of Schenectady High School basketball standout Eddie Stanley, right.

— James Wells continued his denial of shooting Eddie Stanley at a 2011 house party as testimony in the murder trial wrapped up Friday evening.

He admitted being armed with a .357 pistol as a fight in a stairwell took place, but denied firing, also denying handling the .44 magnum revolver that killed the 15-year-old Stanley.

In his statements to the prosecutor, Wells also sought to rebut testimony from at least one earlier witness who said Wells took the .44 from a friend just prior to the killing.

“You say that did not happen?” prosecutor Philip Mueller asked Wells.

“That’s completely inaccurate,” Wells responded.

“I didn’t want anything to do with this case,” Wells testified when asked about denials he gave police a month later that he was ever even at the party that night. “I know I didn’t shoot anybody.”

Wells, 33, of Brooklyn, faces one count of second-degree murder, accused of killing the unarmed Stanley early on the morning of June 12, 2011. He also faces other counts. Wells’ age was reported incorrectly in Thursday’s edition.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday morning after five weeks of testimony. Prosecutors presented a case in which they contend it was Wells who fired multiple shots that killed the young basketball player.

On Thursday, Wells testified under questioning by his attorney, Cheryl Coleman, denying that he killed Stanley. Wells admitted to drawing a gun, a .357, in the stairwell, but said he never fired it. He only drew it after the lights went out and someone else fired, he said. Wells said he never possessed the .44 magnum that night, though he had access to it through his three friends, who were all present at the party.

Mueller walked Wells through his account of the shooting as well as a host of surrounding issues in a day’s worth of testimony Friday.

Wells’ testimony, and the testimony in the lengthy case as a whole, concluded Friday evening. Closing arguments are expected Monday morning. State Supreme Court Justice Michael V. Coccoma is presiding over the trial in Schenectady County Court.

Among the surrounding issues was Wells’ roundabout route to a friend’s house after the shooting, which as described didn’t take Wells near where the murder weapon was later recovered.

Mueller also asked Wells about allegations that he tried to make arrangements via recorded phone calls from the jail to have witnesses at his trial intimidated or killed, accusations Wells denied.

Wells had testified Thursday that he last saw his friend “Jay” with the .44 magnum that prosecutors say was the murder weapon. But he didn’t see who fired it.

At one point Friday, Mueller had Wells demonstrate for the jury his reaction to the shots being fired.

Wells stood up in the witness box and showed the jury how he leaned into a corner, pulling his .357 as he assessed where the shots were coming from. He had the gun in his right hand, pointing it down at the floor.

The lights at the party went out just before the first shot, Wells said. When they came on, he saw Stanley falling down the stairs. He said he fled because he didn’t want to be involved. Mueller also noted at least one other witness’ testimony of the lights going out, but after the first shot.

Wells said he didn’t turn the lights out.

Mueller asked Wells if he saw a muzzle flash. Wells said he didn’t.

Wells said he first thought the shots might be coming from outside, and he glanced at the door for bullet holes. People outside had been trying to get in, he said.

Mueller, holding the .44 magnum in evidence, asked Wells if the last person Wells saw with the .44, Jay, had the gun when the lights came on.

Wells responded that Jay had his back to Wells.

“I don’t think anybody behind you can see that gun in your hand right now,” Wells responded of the people in the courtroom gallery as Mueller faced Wells.

Mueller also asked Wells about his account of handing over his unfired .357 to his friends as they fled.

Wells said he got rid of it because he knew police would be coming soon and he feared getting caught with the gun.

Explaining his flight, Wells said his destination was a friend’s apartment on Odell Street off Brandywine Avenue. But the route he said he took from Bridge Street bypassed the Bridge Street backyard near Francis Avenue where the .44 and the .357 were found in October 2012.

Mueller suggested Wells took a different route from the one he claims he took, disposing of the guns along the way.

A jacket the guns were found wrapped in was not his, Wells said, though Mueller reminded him of testimony from others that it was his.

Wells also testified to what his friends were wearing. None of them wore a jacket like that, Mueller suggested in questioning.

Mueller also asked Wells about a jailhouse phone call he made that was recorded in January. According to a pre-trial hearing, prosecutors alleged Wells used jailhouse phone calls to try to have prospective witnesses intimidated or killed.

Wells testified he never did that.

 
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