The judge who will preside over the trial of Jabrai Jordan Copney—the alleged gunman in the 2009 Kirkland shooting—announced his intention yesterday to separate into a different trial the charges pertaining to Copney’s involvement in an earlier armed robbery, but to allow evidence of that incident in the Kirkland case.
At a hearing held in Essex Superior Court in Salem, Judge John T. Lu heard a wide range of motions from Copney’s defense attorney John A. Amabile and prosecutors Daniel J. Bennett ’85 and David M. Solet, Harvard Law School ’01.
Copney has been charged with crimes relating to the murder of Justin Cosby in the basement of Kirkland’s J-entryway, as well as an alleged armed theft of marijuana from two Yale students.
According to prosecutors, Jason Aquino and Blayn Jiggetts—the two other men indicted for the murder—say that the robbery of the Yale men in 2008 was a model for the attempted “drug rip” which led to Cosby’s slaying.
Bennett and Solet motioned to join the two sets of charges in one trial. Amabile countered with a motion to sever the two crimes into different trials and a motion to forbid the earlier robbery from being mentioned at the Kirkland murder trial.
“It would be completely inappropriate to bring them up at the same trial,” Amabile said in court. “They’re not related offenses, and they do not arise out of the same transaction or event.”
Amabile argued that the jury would be unfairly biased against his client’s character if evidence of a previous wrongdoing were to be included.
“Allowing this would be grossly prejudicial and would be illegal,” he said.
Lu said he will likely agree with Amabile’s contention that the charges should be severed but will not accept his argument that all discussion of the earlier robbery should be suppressed in the Kirkland trial.
“It may well be that I will order the robbery case severed from the trial of the murder—and admit a carefully sanitized version of the robbery incident at the murder trial,” Lu announced.
In one of the many other motions proposed during yesterday’s hearing, Amabile asked that Jiggetts’ docket be unsealed.
The prosecutors and Lu agreed that Jiggetts’ case file, which had been kept secret until yesterday, should be unimpounded.
Bennett said during yesterday’s hearing that Jiggetts, who was charged with first-degree murder, has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter but has not yet been sentenced. He will testify at Copney’s trial.
Aquino pleaded guilty, also to manslaughter, last Thursday.
In other motions—more than 10 were brought forth in rapid succession—each side moved to suppress certain evidence from being heard by the jury in the upcoming trial, which will begin Monday.