The stairway was a chaotic scene, James Wells testified Thursday.
Party-goers were being searched for missing car keys. Wells helped.
But one youth refused to be searched and a fight started.
Outside the front door, those who had just left the party were trying to get back in. Wells held the door to keep them out.
Then the lights went out.
Then came the boom of a gunshot.
“It’s like deafening. I can’t even really tell how many shots came after,” Wells testified Thursday in his own defense. The first shot, then a pause, then a succession there after.”
Schenectady student Eddie Stanley, 15, died in the gunfire and Wells is on trial, accused of the killing.
But Wells wasn’t the one to fire the shots, he testified, though he did have his own gun, a .357, and drew it in response to the first gunshot and while the lights were still off.
He drew his own gun because he didn’t know who was shooting, but he didn’t fire. He did not shoot Stanley, he testified.
Wells, 32, of Brooklyn, faces one count of second-degree murder, accused of killing the unarmed Schenectady High basketball star in the stairwell early on the morning of June 12, 2011. He also faces other counts.
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday morning after five weeks of testimony. Prosecutors presented a case where they contend it was Wells who fired multiple shots in that stairwell with a .44 Magnum, killing the promising young basketball player, as Wells and his three friends searched party-goers for missing rental car keys.
Stanley’s family, including his mother, have watched the case unfold throughout the weeks of testimony.
Wells completed his testimony under direct questioning from his attorney Cheryl Coleman Thursday. Prosecutor Philip Mueller began his cross-examination of Wells, but did not finish. That cross-examination is to continue this morning. If Wells’ testimony concludes today, closing arguments are expected Monday.
In the progression of his questioning Thursday, Mueller had yet to get to ask Wells about the party, or about the shooting. That is expected to take place today.
Wells was at the predominantly teenage party with his three drug-dealing friends from New York City. He has admitted to drug sales in Schenectady in earlier testimony.
Wells, who admitted to being a member of the Bloods street gang, said the group possessed about four or five guns at any one time, used to protect their drug dealing.
Coleman showed Wells the .44 Magnum prosecutors contend was the weapon used to kill Stanley. Wells identified it as one of the guns the group controlled. But he wasn’t the only person to have access to it. The gun has been rendered inoperable for court.
Both a .44 Magnum and a .357 handgun were recovered by police in October 2012 in a Bridge Street back yard after a resident spotted them. After the shooting, Wells said he handed over the .357 to one of his associates. He didn’t know what they did with it.
Wells took the .357 in the first place because at a similar party the night before at the residence, he had run security and some individuals tried to bring guns inside. He turned them away.
Wells knew the woman who threw the parties, Anasia Nesbit. She asked Wells to provide security at the first night.
Regarding the keys at the second night of the party, Wells described the group as calmly searching, then requesting help from those at the party. They offered a reward. Finally, Nesbit ended the party. Then one of Wells’ friends, “Jay,” decided no one would leave without getting searched. Concern for the keys lay with his friends, he said.
Wells helped with the searches. At one point, a party-goer refused to be searched and the brawl began. The .44 Magnum was there, Wells said, but he saw it in “Jay’s” waist.
Then the lights went out and then came the “boom” of the first shot.
When the lights came back on, Wells said he saw Stanley falling down the stairs.
At least two people testified earlier in the trial to seeing Wells fire the shots. Neither appeared to reference the lights going out.
The shots fired, Wells and his three friends fled. They met on Bridge Street. Wells said he handed over his .357, and went to stay at multiple friends’ places.
Wells said he never possessed the .44 Magnum that night.
He said he fled because someone had just gotten shot. He didn’t shoot that person, but he feared retaliation.
At least three individuals have claimed Wells either made admissions to them or that they overheard admissions from Wells that he shot Stanley.
Asked about those by Coleman, Wells denied ever saying anything like that. “I didn’t kill Eddie Stanley, so I told nobody that I killed Eddie Stanley,” Wells said.
Coleman concluded her questioning by asking if Wells shot the .357, if he had the .44 on him. To each, Wells said he did not.
“Did you kill Eddie Stanley?” Coleman finally asked.
“I definitely did not,” Wells responded.
Mueller’s cross examination Thursday centered on preliminary details, including Wells’ admissions to dealing heroin and sometimes crack cocaine. Mueller asked if Wells had ever used the drugs himself. Wells responded with a laugh. No, he hadn’t used them.
Mueller asked why Wells laughed. Wells ultimately responded because he found the question comical. He’d never used either drug in his life.