Second defendant challenges warrants in Troy murder case

Second attorney questions validity of search warrant
Troy Police officers escort murder suspects James W. White and Justin Mann from Troy City Court December 30, 2017.
Troy Police officers escort murder suspects James W. White and Justin Mann from Troy City Court December 30, 2017.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

TROY — Prosecutors appear to be testing a pair of gloves allegedly owned by one of two Schenectady men charged in connection with a December quadruple homicide in Troy, according to a new defense filing. 

Attorney Greg Cholakis referenced the gloves in a defense motion arguing, in part, that his client, James White, should be tried separately from co-defendant Justin Mann.

Cholakis suggested blood will be further analyzed for individual DNA profiles.

“If the DNA profiles on defendant White’s gloves matches or is consistent with the DNA profile of one or more (of) the deceased, defendant Mann will clearly put forth a defense that defendant White was the lone killer,” Cholakis wrote.

The DNA reference comes after prosecutors sought and won an order from the court last month that required White to submit a DNA sample, according to court documents.

The exact context of where and how the gloves were found was not included in the motion. As with a motion filed by Mann’s attorney earlier, large sections of the document were redacted to comply with a judicial order to seal a statement allegedly given by Mann. Cholakis did not return a call for comment Friday.

White, 38, and Mann, 24, both of Schenectady, were indicted in January for allegedly killing the family of four on Dec. 21 inside their 158 Second Ave. apartment. Their deaths weren’t discovered until Dec. 26. 

Police arrested Mann and White on Dec. 29 in Schenectady and charged them with the murders of Shanta Myers, 36; her children Jeremiah and Shanise, 5; and Myers’ partner, Brandi Mells, 22.

Mann and White, both ex-convicts, allegedly killed the four during a robbery, making off with an XBox game system and a flat-screen television. They both face up to life without parole if convicted of the first-degree murder counts.

Before the judge gets to the issue of separate trials, issues concerning the indictment itself and search warrants issued in the case must be dealt with.

As Mann’s attorney argued earlier, White’s attorney said the indictment should be dismissed, alleging prosecutors used a statement from Mann that they argue is inadmissible. Mann’s defense attorney, Joseph Ahearn, argued his client invoked his right to remain silent 23 times, invalidating anything he allegedly said after the first time he invoked it. Cholakis also argued errors in applications for three search warrants make those warrants invalid, making anything found as a result of those searches inadmissible in court.

Prosecutors will have a chance to respond to the Mann and White motions, though that response wasn’t available Friday. Judge Debra Young, upon receipt of the response, will determine whether the indictment stands and, if so, what hearings are needed.

Prosecutors have various video evidence related to the case, including video from neighboring 166 Second Ave. that prosecutors believe helped pin down the time of the murders. The video shows two figures arriving and leaving with bags, according to the defense filings.

The defense attorneys contend the people seen in the video can’t be identified as Mann or White. 

Cholakis also alleges “intentional misstatements” on the warrant applications formed the heart of the judge’s decision to approve them.

Cholakis, as Mann’s attorney also noted, said the warrant application lists the driveway seen in the video as that of the murder scene, 158 Second Ave., when it actually belongs to the neighboring property, 166 Second Ave.

Misstatements “as to the location of these two unknown black males on the video is arguably the strongest evidence in support of the issuance of the three search warrants at issue,” Cholakis wrote.

It was unclear from the paperwork provided whether Cholakis alleges other misstatements, as a motion page that would appear to make that clear was removed by the court due to its order to seal a statement by Mann.

“In short, the information possessed by arresting officers provide no more probable cause of the defendant’s commission of a crime than that of any other person” observed near the residence that night “or the numerous vehicles depicted on the security video which enter and exit the same driveway at 166 Second Ave.” during the evening of Dec. 21.

At best, Cholakis argued, all the officers had at that point was that White rode on a CDTA bus from a bus stop at an intersection about four blocks from the crime scene and that he or Mann carried a bag on the bus rides to Schenectady.

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