Monday, November 30, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, November 19, 2015, 2:46 PM
Dominic Rountree

In just two days this week at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center, there were three cases of fratricide: brother killing brother.

On Monday, there was the case of Robert A. Young, 57, who pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for shooting and killing his 62-year-old brother Allen Young after what the prosecutor said was an argument over food.

The July 12, 2014 murder occurred about 2-1/2 months after Allen was paroled to Robert’s Oxford Circle house after serving about 30 years in state prisons for third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated assault.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:46 PM  Permalink |
POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 3:58 PM

To recast the old saying: You can grant a witness immunity from prosecution but you can’t make him testify.

Case in point: Gabriel Ortega, 24, witness to the Sept. 24, 2014 midday murder of 30-year-old Rafael Cruz Morales as he sat in his car at American and Cambria Streets in Fairhill. Ortega, a passenger in Morales’ car, was wounded as well.

The next day, Ortega gave a statement to Philadelphia Police homicide detectives. From a photo array, Ortega identified Charles Wheeler, 29, whom he said he knew by the street name “Jeff,” as the man who got out of a black Nissan Altima and started shooting at Morales and him.

Joe Slobodzian @ 3:58 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 2:38 PM

Closure is overrated.

That’s one conclusion after 13 days of the criminal trial involving the 2013 building collapse that crushed the Salvation Army thrift store at 22d and Market Street, killing six and injuring 13.

There was a lots of anger, pain and sadness to go around but not much closure for anyone.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:38 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2015, 4:10 PM
Justen Smith, left, and Terry Ballard.

After twice considering pleading guilty and then changing their minds at the last minute, the two men charged with slaying an elderly West Philadelphia couple last summer have decided to go to trial – next year.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson, who will preside over the trial of Terry Ballard and Justen Smith, told lawyers for the pair on Wednesday that jury selection begins next June 21.

If that seems like an unusually long delay, it’s not – at least not in the Philadelphia court system, where just nine Common Pleas Court judges are designate to handle murder trials. Try synchronizing the judges' schedules with those of the limited number of prosecutors and defense lawyers who handle homicides, and your calendar quickly runs out of options.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:10 PM  Permalink |
POSTED: Tuesday, September 15, 2015, 2:33 PM

Three Olney women charged with taking three juveniles to beat a homeless veteran into a coma five months ago have rejected guilty-plea deals offered by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.

Lawyers for Aleathea Gillard, 34; Shareena Joachim,23; and Kaisha Duggins, 24; on Tuesday rejected plea deals that would have included prison terms of 7 to 14 years, according to Assistant District Attorney Jason Kleinman.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Erdos set Sept. 30 for a pretrial scheduling conference for the three, who are charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy and other charges for the April 7 attack on Robert Barnes, 51.

Joe Slobodzian @ 2:33 PM  Permalink |
POSTED: Tuesday, September 8, 2015, 3:17 PM

Former Philadelphia homicide detective Ron Dove has rejected a prosecution guilty-plea deal and will go to trial Feb. 17 on obstruction of justice charges for trying to cover up a killing allegedly committed by his girlfriend Erica Sánchez, 34.

Dove, 43, well-tanned and wearing a full beard, appeared briefly in court Tuesday before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn H. Nichols with attorney Brian J. McMonagle, who confirmed that Dove wished to go to trial on the charges.

Sánchez was arrested Oct. 16, 2013 after several weeks as a fugitive for the stabbing death that Sept. 8 of Cesar Vera, 33, with whom she lived.

Joe Slobodzian @ 3:17 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, September 2, 2015, 4:47 PM

It’s common knowledge that people get shorter as they age but what happened to the late Demetrius Gilbert had the makings of a medical mystery.

Gilbert was only 24 but, if official records were to be believed, he lost five inches in height and gained 14 pounds between April 11, when police arrested him on drug charges, and June 21, when police say the proprietor of Johnny Ace’s bar in North Philadelphia shot him in the chest during a barroom altercation.

It was a question that burned in the mind of Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge James M. DeLeon at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing for bar owner John Ace Salmons. And veteran defense attorney Nino V. Tinari, laying the foundation for an eventual self-defense claim, did all he could to keep that fire stoked.

Joe Slobodzian @ 4:47 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2015, 3:30 PM
Crime-scene tape at Rutland Street near Cheltenham Avenue, the site of the Valentine's Day slayings. (MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / Staff photographer, file)

Defense lawyer Jack McMahon stood in front of a panel of Philadelphia jurors last Thursday doing his best to convince them to spare the life of his client, Shaun Warrick.

Shaun Warrick.

​A day earlier, the 32-year-old Warrick had been found guilty by the same jury of two counts of first-degree murder in the 2011 Valentine’s Day shootings of his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Barnhill, and her cousin, Marcedes Ivery.

Because the District Attorney’s office designated it a “capital” case, the trial had moved to a penalty-phase hearing for the jury to decide if Warrick should be sentenced to death or life in prison without possibility of parole.

Joe Slobodzian @ 3:30 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or Reach Joseph A. at

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