BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) No jury will hear the case. The only man charged in a shooting which involved more than one shooter has opted for a non-jury trial which began on Thursday before Erie County Court Judge Kenneth Case.
“A senseless, vicious and brutal ambush from the cover of bushes,” is the way Assistant District Attorney Ashley Morgan described the scene on Grape Street July 2, 2018. In her opening statements, she outlined how police found, in Kenyatta Austin’s Niagara Falls apartment, an SKS assault rifle believed to be used in the shooting.
“It’s their job to prove that he was there, not our job to prove that he wasn’t,” said Robert Goldstein, one of two defense attorneys in the trial. His client, Austin, told police he wasn’t even in Buffalo that night. But prosecutors contend that detectives traced his cell phone to Buffalo that night, and even the new Grand Island Bridge toll cameras captured the car he was driving crossing the Island that night.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they attempt to prove it. There’s a lot of witnesses but not a lot of them saw a whole lot,” said defense attorney Goldstein.
Both sides agree there were multiple shooters, but Austin has been the only one charged with the murders of one year old Kyrie Johnson and 54 year old Yvette Johnson as they stood outside her home, after coming home from her birthday gathering at Martin Luther King Park.
Judge Ken Case gave defense attorney, James Auricchio until Monday to give his opening statements. He wanted more time to pour through an eight hour recording in which a witness claims he (quote) ‘knew why we were going there that night.’
“It’s significant in as much as that it puts that person in a completely different light than what the police tried to make him out to be,” said defense attorney James Auriccio. “He could be somebody whose credibility is questionable because he could be the person that’s responsible for this.”
The trial is in recess until Monday when the defense is expected to begin with its opening statements. On Thursday prosecutors called their first witness. Darren Works is the uncle of Kyrie Johnson. He was holding the 16 month old when they were both hit with bullets. Kyrie was struck in the head. Works was struck in the leg but did not realize it at first. Works said he did not see any of the shooters.