Eddie Stanley was at the top of a flight of stairs when a fight started below him. He wanted to help out a friend.
But Marliek Roscoe warned Stanley not to, he testified Wednesday. Roscoe feared people could get shot in the fracas below.
Stanley, 15, went down despite Roscoe’s warning.
“The first person on the steps, he hit them,” Roscoe recounted. “He went down a couple more steps and hit a second person. The third to last steps down, that’s when he punched HO.”
Soon after, the man Roscoe knew as “HO” pulled out two guns and opened fire. Roscoe’s recounting of the killing was in Schenectady County Court at the murder trial of James Wells, also known by the street name “HO.”
Wells faces one count of second-degree murder, accused of killing the unarmed Stanley in that stairwell early on the morning of June 12, 2011. Wells allegedly shot Stanley, a promising Schenectady High School basketball player, as Wells and his friends broke up a teenage party at 730 Bridge St.
The fight on the stairs, Roscoe said, was related to the search for a set of missing car keys. Wells and three of his friends had been searching party-goers before they left the party. Roscoe said the three friends appeared more concerned about the keys and more involved in the searches than was Wells. Roscoe, who is in his early 20s, arrived at the party shortly after midnight.
The brawl started when Stanley’s friend refused to be searched and began fighting one of Wells’ friends. Then Stanley made his way down, punching as he went.
When Stanley hit Wells, his head went back, Roscoe said. That’s when Roscoe saw Wells draw two guns.
Wells’ expression had changed, Roscoe said. “His whole demeanor changed.” He could only describe that new demeanor as turning “ugly.”
“Then I seen the first shot,” Roscoe said.
Asked by prosecutor Philip Mueller where the shot came from, Roscoe said it came from where Wells was holding the guns.
Roscoe saw flame coming out of the barrel, he said.
Roscoe heard the three successive shots as he ran to the second-floor balcony.
Also under questioning by Mueller, Roscoe said he was getting nothing in exchange for his testimony. He has no criminal record.
Wells’ defense attorney, Cheryl Coleman, questioned Roscoe, suggesting he couldn’t have seen what he claimed in that stairwell. From Roscoe’s position at the railing to the side of the staircase, Coleman questioned how he could see the bottom of the stairwell and the shooter.
She had Roscoe point out on a photograph of the stairs where everyone else was on the stairs. She suggested in all the chaos that Roscoe couldn’t have seen down to the bottom, but Roscoe said he could.
Coleman also questioned Roscoe’s motivations for his testimony, asking him if he knew about a $1,000 reward put up for information leading to Stanley’s killer. Roscoe said he did not know about any reward.
Roscoe admitted to Coleman that he’d sold marijuana previously, and that he smoked marijuana in the hours before the shooting, smoking three or four “blunts” with others. Roscoe said he wasn’t drinking and doesn’t drink.
Coleman also questioned Roscoe about a statement he made to a reporter in the days after the shooting, where he appeared to suggest he came upon the scene afterward and didn’t witness it. Roscoe said his testimony was consistent.
Regarding the missing car keys, Roscoe also provided context to why Wells’ friends believed somebody had taken them. Roscoe said he was outside on the porch with two of Wells’ friends nearby when Wells’ rental car lights flashed, as if someone were pressing the button on the key remote.
Wells’ trial, before state Supreme Court Justice Michael V. Coccoma, is now in its third week of testimony. So far, the prosecution has entered into evidence more than 450 exhibits, including photographs and other evidence.
Members of Stanley’s family, including his mother, have been a constant presence in the courtroom gallery throughout.
Testimony is expected to continue into at least next week.