The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 12, 2013

Accused shooter claims self-defense

JOHNSTOWN — The Philadelphia man accused of shooting and killing 21-year-old J-Quan “Scar” Lewis at the Oakhurst Homes testified Saturday that he acted in self-defense when Lewis reached into the front pockets of his hoodie as if going for a gun.

Marquis “G” Neal, who also observed his 31st birthday on Saturday, took the witness stand in his own defense in the Cambria County murder trial in which prosecutors are seeking a first-degree murder conviction.

The co-defendant, Anthony “Mack” Harvey, 29, also of Philadelphia and Neal’s cousin, decided not to testify, and his attorney, Jerome Kaharick, rested Harvey’s case without calling any witnesses.

Harvey is charged as an accomplice with helping Neal in planning and carrying out the murder in retaliation for a beating Neal received in a fight with Lewis late the night before at Edder’s Den, a bar in the Oakhurst neighborhood. Prosecutors said Harvey drove Neal to and from the shooting.

Lewis was shot three times in an encounter with Neal around 2 p.m. Oct. 1, 2001, along Grandinetti Street at the housing project. Witnesses have testified that after Lewis fell to the ground, the shooter approached, bent over and shot the victim a final time above his right eye.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m.  Monday when the prosecution and defense will make closing statements at the courtroom in the Central Park Complex in downtown Johnstown.

Trial Judge Norman Krumenacker then will give the jury of seven women and five men instructions in the law before sending them to the jury room to begin deliberations.

Neal denied that he and Harvey conspired to kill Lewis. Rather, Neal said that he had been at Oakhurst Homes that morning at his girlfriend’s place, drinking vodka and popping pills, when he decided to go out to look for some “weed” – marijuana to smoke.

He said that as he was walking to another house in the project, he saw Lewis and Hakeem Horton, Lewis’ friend, approaching.

The defendant, describing himself as a non-aggressive person, said that he paused momentarily, not wanting any trouble from the night before. Neal said that he put out his hand to shake Lewis’ hand, saying the he hoped “everything was cool.”

But Lewis ignored his hand, started to walk past him and then deliberately bumped into him, Neal testified.

“He bumped me to throw me off,” Neal said as he demonstrated how he stumbled sideways.

“I seen him put his hands into his hoodie” pockets, Neal said. “I just pulled out (a gun), and I just started firing. I just wanted to get away from him. I just started running.”

Horton, when he testified, described Lewis as only nudging against Neal, but did remember Neal attempting to shake hands.

Although witnesses have testified during the trial that Neal ran after the victim, the defendant said that he didn’t recall doing that. He also said that he did not remember going to the victim and firing a final shot.

District Attorney Kelly Callihan asked on cross-examination, “When he (Lewis) was on the ground, (was) he still a threat to you?”

Neal replied, “I don’t recall that.”

When defense attorney Paul Eckenrode asked about the victim and the victim’s friends, the defendant referred to them as “Bloods,” in reference to a name used by gangs in some metropolitan areas.

But after Callihan raised an objection, there were no further references to any alleged gang affiliation.

The defendant did remember seeing Harvey – who was coming to the project to visit another friend – “coming up (in a minivan). I jumped in front of him. He hit the brakes. I got in and said, ‘Drive. Just drive.’ He asked, ‘What’s going on?’ And I said, ‘Drive. Just drive.’ ”

When Callihan asked about Harvey’s then driving him to Pittsburgh – where the parked van was found two weeks later, Neal said that he did not go to Pittsburgh. He testified that Harvey dropped him off at a convenience store in the West End, where he got another Philadelphia cousin to give him a ride to Philadelphia.

As for cellphone calls between the two men both on the day of the shooting and the day before, Neal denied that he used the phone that a prosecution witness had identified as his.

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