SCHENECTADY — Prosecutors' case against Tarchand Lall, on trial for allegedly hiring hit men to kill Charles Dembrosky, left too much reasonable doubt to convict him, according to his attorney, Cheryl Coleman.
Coleman, in closing statements Tuesday in Schenectady County Court, said the prosecution offered too much circumstantial evidence in the case, calling it “the Taj Mahal on a Play-Doh foundation.”
“It’s an elaborate architecture on a shoddy foundation,” Coleman said of the prosecution’s case.
Lall is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with Dembrosky's death. He also faces second-degree criminal solicitation charges for allegedly attempting to hire an inmate to kill a witness against him.
Lall faces a life in prison sentence if he is convicted on the murder charge.
The prosecution, Coleman said, doesn’t have enough evidence to prove when, exactly, Dembrosky, who did construction work for Lall, was killed. She also said there were no reports of shots fired made to police during the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2016, when Dembrosky was shot to death.
Coleman said there wasn't direct evidence to show where the vehicle driven by Dembrosky's killers — Joevany Luna and Kyshaan Moore — was when the murder happened.
Luna and Moore were convicted in May — Luna is serving a life sentence for killing Dembrosky, and Moore is serving a 25-year sentence for driving Luna to Schenectady from Delaware to commit the murder.
Coleman also said that the inmates who testified against Lall during the trial — one saying he was asked to kill a witness in exchange for money — were “scam artists.”
She said those witnesses testified only to get their sentences reduced and to get money out of Lall.
Prosecutor Peter Willis, in his closing statement, said all of the presented evidence, much of it in the form records produced by cellphones and other technology, proved Lall had hired hit men to kill Dembrosky, and that he did it for money. Willis said Dembrosky had a $150,000 life insurance policy, on which Lall was named as a beneficiary.
The answer to who was responsible for the murder, Willis said, was found inside Dembrosky's pocket: his cellphone. Police found evidence of a call from a phone number with a 484 area code on Dembrosky’s phone. That number called Dembrosky three times before he was found dead, and police later found the same number in Lall’s phone records, with one of the calls being made just after Dembroksy died.
Prosecutors said the last three calls made to Dembrosky’s phone were from the number investigators have tied to Luna.
Willis also said that, while license plate readers that recorded the passage of a car used by the hit men as it traveled up the Thruway aren't in place north of Ulster County, police were able to use cellphone tower data to show the two moving along the same route. The data also showed the cellphone tied to Moore using cellphone towers near Lall’s home and heading toward the Bellevue neighborhood where Dembrosky lives at around the time of the murder.
In his closing statement, Willis also recounted testimony from two residents who lived near Dembrosky’s home when he was killed. They testified they heard a loud noise they believed could have been a gunshot at around 1:30 a.m., the time prosecutors believe Dembrosky was killed. He said they didn’t call police because they weren’t immediately sure what the sound was.
Willis also spoke about the inmates who testified at the trial. Timothy Morris, an inmate at the Fulton County Correctional facility, said Lall approached him when the two were in Schenectady County Jail, Willis recounted. Morris said Lall asked him to kill a witness to his crimes in exchange for money to pay for Morris's bail.
Willis said Morris couldn’t remember the name of the person he was supposed to kill, but he described him perfectly.
Willis said there was no way for Morris to have those details unless Lall told him everything about the witness.
“You think he would create a story about killing somebody and falsely get on the stand and testify to something that is not true?” Willis asked the jury in his closing statement. “How did he get such detailed accuracy?”
Willis said the coincidences in the case “are numerous,” and the evidence could only point to Lall hiring the men to kill Dembrosky.
“Charles Dembrosky laid dead for reasons he probably never knew of at the hand of the person he trusted,” Willis said.
The jury began deliberations in the case at around 3 p.m. and are expected to continue them Wednesday.