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Defense attorney says N.Y. man charged in Harvard dorm slaying is 'totally innocent'

Posted by Metro Desk  April 20, 2011 01:59 PM

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WOBURN – A defense attorney today urged a jury to acquit a New York man in a 2009 slaying at a Harvard residence hall, arguing that the prosecution case relied on the imaginary physics of Wile E. Coyote.


Justin Cosby

Delivering his closing argument in Jabrai Jordan Copney’s first-degree murder trial, John Amabile told a Middlesex Superior Court jury that Copney is wrongly accused of shooting Justin Cosby, a Cambridge man who was on campus on May 18, 2009 to complete the sale of some marijuana.

“It’s very hard to prove an innocent person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ Amabile said. “He is totally innocent. That’s the explanation for their failure of proof.’’

Prosecutor Daniel Bennett said that Copney was the mastermind of a plot to rob Cosby that proved fatal.

"Jabrai Copney took away everything that Justin Cosby was. And Jabrai Copney, through his decision, took away everything thing Justin Cosby might have been," Bennett told the jury.

The true killer, Amabile said, was the prosecution’s star witness, Blayn Jiggetts, who admitted bringing a 9mm handgun to the Kirkland House dorm but testified that Copney was the one who actually pulled the trigger.

Amabile mentioned the cartoon coyote as he led the jury through a detailed accounting of the ballistic evidence discovered inside the Kirkland House hallway after Cosby was shot.

He said a live round was found on the top of the stairs, a spent shell casing was found midway down the stairs, and another live round was found at the bottom of the stairs. A bullet hole was found in a basement door and a bullet hole was found in a hallway wall, indicating the shooter fired downward.

Amabile said the medical examiner testified that the bullet that killed Cosby entered his left side and traveled downward, indicating the shooter was standing above Cosby when he was killed.

But Jiggetts had testified that Copney shot Cosby while standing in the basement at the foot of the stairwell, Amabile said.

“Wile E. Coyote, when he fires a gun or shoots a missile at the Roadrunner, the bullet goes flying up and down stairs and around the corner,’’ Amabile said.

He then added: “If you are going to believe Blayn ‘Bliz’ Jiggetts, you have to believe that the shot that killed Mr. Cosby went over his shoulder, turned a circle, and then came back downward the other way. … It’s like something out of a Road Runner cartoon.’’

Amabile called Jiggetts “a bully, a murderous bully from New York City’’ and a “homicidal maniac from Harlem’’ at different points during his hour-long summation.

Amabile also told jurors there was no evidence that Copney had planned in advance to rob Cosby, and he insisted that the only mistake Copney made was inviting Jiggetts and a third man, Jason Aquino, to jointly buy marijuana from Cosby.

In his closing, prosecutor Daniel Bennett agreed with some of the key points made by Amabile. Jiggetts, he said, was indeed a “murderer’’ as was Aquino because they had joined with Copney in a plan to rob Cosby at gunpoint.

Drug dealers, Bennett said, make for perfect victims because they are unlikely to report the crime. At the same time, he said, a fatal shooting between criminals leaves law enforcement with limited options when they seek to solve the case.

“It’s not a victimless crime – but it is a witness-less crime,’’ he said.

That’s why prosecutors cut a deal with Jiggetts, he said. Jurors needed to hear from someone who was inside Kirkland House on the day that Cosby was murdered, he said.
“Someone needs to testify about that entryway or you are faced with the fantasies’’ made up by defense lawyers, Bennett told jurors.

Bennett did not rebut Amabile’s account of who fired the fatal shot in great detail. Instead, he repeatedly told jurors that Copney is guilty of first-degree murder even if he did not pull the trigger.

Copney, he said, was the mastermind of what was planned as a robbery all along. It was not, Bennett, said a drug deal gone awry.

“The intention of Jabrai Copney, in this crime, was to rob Justin Cosby,’’ Bennett said.
According to Jiggetts, Cosby balked at being robbed of his drugs and $980 in cash and tried pushing his way out of the residence hall – and was then shot.

“Justin Cosby made a mistake, ‘’Bennett said. “He valued that marijuana more than he valued his own life. And he paid for it with his life.’’

Jurors were expected to begin deliberations this afternoon. Copney is charged with armed robbery and first-degree murder. Jurors can vote for acquittal, first- degree murder or second-degree murder.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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