TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Opening statements were delivered on Friday in the trial of the December 2017 quadruple homicide in Troy.
Prior to opening statements, the defendant, James White, requested that he represent himself in this trial, but that request was denied by the judge.
Assistant District Attorney, Cheryl McDermott, addressed the jury explaining that on December 21, 2017, James White and Justin Mann took a bus from Schenectady to Troy. She said they then rode bikes to 158 2nd Avenue in Lansingburgh where they broke in then tied up and stabbed each victim to death one by one. The victims are Brandi Mells, 22, Shanta Myers, 36 and Myer’s two children, Shanise, 5, and Jeremiah “JJ”, 11.
McDermott told jurors during the trial they will see the men in video surveillance from both the bus and a neighboring home. She added that White was wearing winter gloves and an oven mitt when he used a kitchen knife to stab the victims. She said those gloves were located at the time of his arrest and found to have traces of the victims blood on it.
When it came time for defense attorney, Kurt Haas, to address the jury he acknowledge that someone should be held accountable for the four deaths, but said, as jurors, they must be absolutely sure that it was in fact his client. He said Brandi Dells was known to deal drugs and rip people off, including many gang members. He said during the investigation, some 250 different leads were developed, but instead of being thorough, he said Troy Police found the first story that fit the narrative and stuck with it.
Justin Mann the co-defendant in this case has already accepted a plea deal. He agreed to testify against White in this trial in exchange for 25 years to life. The defense attorney told the jury that Justin Mann’s word is no good because his story has changed a few times.
“Obviously as everyone is aware, my client is public enemy number one. What I’m trying to avoid is a trial by public opinion as opposed to a trial by jury which is what he’s entitled to,” said Haas.
When opening statements were finished, the judge told the jury to go home for the weekend and return on Monday for testimony.
Rensselaer county district attorney, Mary Pat Donnelly, addressed questions surrounding whether Coronavirus concerns could create any delays. “In my experience the court system is the last to close. We have deadlines, we have constitutional implications. That’s probably going to come from the Governor at some point, so it’s a minute-to-minute analysis. At this point, we have received no directives that we’re going to close. We’re just trying to stay away so that we can keep the jury aware of how things are going,” said Donnelly.