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December 27, 2012

Trial date set in Oakhurst killing

EBENSBURG — Jury selection for the murder trial of two Philadelphia cousins charged with involvement in a Johnstown murder more than a year ago will be held Jan. 7 and 8 at the courthouse in Ebensburg.

Testimony in the trial will get under way Jan. 9 in Johnstown.

Cambria County Judge Norman Krumenacker ordered Thursday that the testimony portion of the trial be held at the Central Park Complex on Locust Street because most of the witnesses are from the Johnstown area.

“We have people coming in from out of town. We’re trying to do a (jury) view and most of the witnesses are from Johnstown,” Krumenacker said.

The three defense attorneys and two prosecutors involved in the single trial for the two defendants said they had no objection to the change of the trial’s location with the exception of one concern.

Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan and Assistant District Attorney Tamara Bernstein want to make sure the cousins they are prosecuting have no contact.

Krumenacker ordered the defendants – Marquis “G” Neal, 30, the alleged shooter of 21-year-old J-Quan Lewis, and Anthony Harvey, 29, who police say drove Neal to and from the murder scene – be taken to Johnstown separately for the trial each day.

The murder occurred Oct. 1, 2011, in the parking lot of the Oakhurst Homes housing project in Johnstown.

Lewis, of New York City, had been staying in Johnstown for a time prior to his death. He was struck several times when Neal fired a handgun at him at close range, police said.

Both men are charged with first-degree murder and related charges.

Johnstown attorney Jerome Kaharick, representing Harvey, renewed an argument made earlier that being a getaway driver does not reach the level of accomplice liability.

Krumenacker didn’t agree, but did agree to allow the prosecution to present testimony in the upcoming trial that Harvey was behind the wheel of a maroon minivan when it was stopped at a DUI checkpoint on Sept. 11, 2011 – 20 days prior to the shooting.

Police maintain Harvey was behind the wheel of that same maroon minivan at Oakhurst Homes on the night Lewis was murdered.

“That is how police traced the vehicle to Harvey,” following the shooting, Bernstein said.

Kaharick maintained that the prosecution is trying to say that because Harvey got a traffic citation, he was then part of the killing.

Krumenacker said he will allow testimony about the  traffic stop to be heard by the jury.

“I do agree with the commonwealth. It is a method of completing their story, identifying how they arrived at accusing Mr. Harvey as a defendant,” the judge said.

Harvey was arrested Nov. 21, 2011, in Delaware County, and Neal was taken into custody March 6 in New Jersey.

A jury will be chosen from a pool of 126 people, with each prospective juror interviewed individually.

One of the questions the potential jurors will be asked is if they understand they can reach a split verdict, convicting one of the defendants while acquitting the other.

The trial will start with opening statements by prosecution and likely one part of the defense.

The jury panel will immediately be taken via bus on a tour of the murder scene, including various views of the Oakhurst Homes area and Edder’s Den, a bar near the Oakhurst Homes where a confrontation occurred between Harvey and the victim  late Sept. 30, 2011, and early Oct. 1, 2011.

The jury view of the crime scene was approved by Krumenacker with a stipulation that it will depend on other circumstances.

“It will be dependent on the weather. I’m not taking them out there in weather like this,” he said, referring to the several inches of snow and high winds in Ebensburg on Thursday.

Callihan said the prosecution will call 25 to 30 witnesses to the stand, including about a half- dozen from out of the area.

She said testimony likely will last about five days.

Neal is being represented by attorneys Robert Davis Gleason and Paul Eckenrode.

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