PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A key piece of evidence that would have placed acquitted suspect Cheron Shelton near the scene of the Wilkinsburg massacre was never shown to the jury.
Newly released transcripts of private sidebar conversations between the judge and the attorneys reveal that the prosecution failed to provide this evidence to the defense so, it wasn’t allowed in evidence.
A Wilkinsburg police detective testified he saw suspect Shelton near the scene, not too long after five people were shot and killed.
He said he called and checked on the license plate number of the car Shelton was getting in. But the detective couldn’t prove it.
It turns out, there was proof all along, but for some reason, county detectives didn’t turn over the evidence until it was too late.
It was Wilkinsburg Detective Michael Adams who testified that suspect Cheron Shelton was getting into a white Lincoln.
Defense attorneys called Adam a liar, but it turns out now there was evidence to back up Adams’s claim.
Veteran defense attorney Phil DiLucente, who wasn’t part of the trial, says this made a huge difference in the case:
“I think it was a game changer,” he says. “This was very, very, critical evidence of from what we now know.”
In transcripts released Friday, a sidebar conversation between the judge and attorneys reveal that a record exists proving Detective Adams checked on the plate number.
But the prosecution got it late — too late to inform the defense, too late to get it into evidence.
Prosecutor Kevin Chernosky admits to the judge “obviously, it is a discovery violation,” meaning they failed to hand over the evidence to the defense.
DiLucente agrees with the judge’s decision to not allow the evidence because of the untimeliness of it.
So defense the attorney asked the judge at sidebar: “I would hope that I could argue to the jury, you never heard any other witness or detective confirm that they were given this information?”
The judge responds: “You can argue that.”
But the judge added: “I don’t think you can any longer call Adams a liar because there is substantial corroboration.”
Meanwhile, District Attorney Stephen Zappala declines to talk about the Shelton verdict. In a written statement he says simply:
“The officer from Wilkinsburg testified truthfully and that has been verified by the document you are referencing.”
It turns out that Detective Adams’ testimony was significant to the jury. Because in the midst of their deliberations, jurors asked to have a transcript of the detective’s testimony read back to them.
After that, the jury came back with a verdict of not guilty.