At Webster attempted-murder trial, assistant AG: No doubt who fired shots at officer
MANCHESTER - The defense attorney for Myles Webster, who is accused of shooting Manchester Police Officer Dan Doherty in March, suggested in her opening statement at trial this morning that her client was framed.
In her opening argument Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court North, Caroline Smith said there is no fingerprint or DNA evidence linking Webster to the shooting of Doherty, who sustained serious leg and lower torso injuries.
Smith said Webster is the victim of mistaken identity. She said witnesses were not shown photo arrays from which to select the shooter, and she said the investigation was conducted in a way to convict Webster.
Smith said the investigation was "contaminated, unreliable, not trustworthy and done by choice."
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said there is no doubt who shot Doherty, and Webster made that clear when he told booking officers after his arrest: "You might as well kill me. I'm going away for life anyway."
Strelzin told jurors, "He knew what he'd done."
What that entailed was firing his .357 Glock handgun out the window of a vehicle on Granite Street after an argument, shortly before a foot chase that ended with Doherty's shooting.
Strelzin said Webster ignored Doherty's repeated shouts. "Police, stop."
As Doherty closed on Webster, close enough to be ready to tackle him, Webster stopped, spun around, and started shooting, Strelzin said.
Despite being wounded and flat on his back, said Strelzin, Doherty managed to pull out his gun and fire. No bullets struck Webster, but Doherty was shot seven times. As for Webster, Strelzin said, "He only stopped shooting because he'd run out of bullets."
Webster was arrested in a Putnam Street back yard, where police reported finding the gun used to shoot Doherty. It was empty, and 14 bullets had been discharged at the time Doherty was shot at Wayne and Rimmon streets, with another shot fired on Granite Street, where a matching shell casing was found.
At today's trial, the public was barred from hearing the first witness, an undercover police officer.
More to come as the trial proceeds.
Previous story follows:
Sixteen people were chosen Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court North to hear the attempted murder case of Myles Webster, 23, who is accused of shooting Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty five times after a foot chase on the West Side last March.
After all the evidence is heard and closing arguments are done, Judge Gillian Abramson will draw numbers and 12 members of the group of nine women and seven men will deliberate the charges of attempted murder, robbery and reckless conduct. Four members of the group will serve as alternates.
A jury pool of 90 was whittled down during morning questioning as potential jurors were excused for various reasons, including acquaintance or relationships with witnesses, attorneys or other parties involved, and a stated inability to be impartial.
When the afternoon session began, 16 people were seated in the jury box; about two dozen others were seated in the first two rows of the gallery next to the jury box. Still others from the pool were seated on the other side of the courtroom, in reserve status.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karen Gorham and defense attorney Caroline Smith questioned jurors as a group, in a process called panel voir dire.
One of Gorham's questions sought to determine whether potential jurors understood what part of the trial is evidence.
"Our job is to put information in front of you ... The evidence comes from the witnesses who are sworn," she said.
As an example, she said, if she were to ask a witness if it were not true that the witness saw a blue car and the witness said he saw a red car, the only evidence in that exchange would be that the car was red.
"What I say is not evidence," said Gorham. At the same time, she said, the job of the jury is to judge the credibility of the witness.
Defense attorney Smith asked the potential jurors if they thought that people involved in an event might not be impartial, and if that could affect their testimony.
"This case is about a really tragic event," Smith said. A lot of good people are involved, she said.
She asked if the jurors believe it's possible that good people's conduct and opinions might be affected by their involvement.
Officer Doherty, who said on the witness stand at a motions hearing last month that he is "100 percent sure" that Webster is the man who shot him, will testify, along with officers who chased and arrested Webster shortly after the shooting.
Smith also asked if the jurors thought is was appropriate that the media treated "this kind of thing" differently because of the victim's job as a protector of the public. Would gratitude "affect the way you view the evidence," she asked.
Smith also reminded the jurors that there is a presumption of innocence and that the defendant doesn't have to testify.
Following the questioning by attorneys, about half the original 16 in the jury box were excused as a result of challenges; they were replaced by people selected from the group seated near the jury box who were included in the attorneys' questioning.
The remaining members of the jury pool were excused. Abramson repeated some of the jury instructions, including reminders that they are to avoid any media coverage of the case and avoid any discussions regarding the case. She told them they are not to research the case in any way, including on the Internet, and urged them to report any juror who brings up information gained from outside sources.
The jurors will go on a "view" this morning, traveling to places relevant to the charges on which Webster is being tried. That will be followed by opening arguments by both prosecution and defense.