Witnesses, police describe scene of Norwich murder
Jurors listened to a medley of 911 calls that Norwich police received after Namdi Smart was shot in the head outside his Lake Street apartment in August 2010 and heard live testimony from one of the callers Monday as the murder trial of Darnell X. Moore got under way in Superior Court.
Police say Moore and Smart were part of a large group of people who were hanging out and drinking that night and that Moore left and returned with a gun after a dispute with Smart.
Edith Brown, who lived at 37 Lake St., testified that she was playing on her computer when she heard Moore and Smart arguing outside. Then, she said, she heard "a large pow" and looked out the window.
"I seen Dee on the ground," she testified. "I called 911."
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Norman A. Pattis asked Brown if the two men had been arguing about "whose turn it was to take a swig out of the bottle."
"Yes," Brown responded.
Moore, 23, who was charged four days after the shooting, pleaded not guilty to murder and opted for a trial. Dressed in a black suit, he sat with Pattis at the defense table and occasionally glanced back at his mother, father and sister in the gallery.
Pattis had objected to the lack of any African American men in the pool of 120 prospective jurors who were interviewed for the case. Before the first witness was called to testify, Judge Barbara B. Jongbloed denied his motion to strike the seated jurors on the basis of racial bias and to continue picking until there was "a fair cross-section of jurors."
In the event of a conviction, Pattis said he would challenge it on the grounds that his client has been denied a fundamental right.
"Juries are a source of legitimacy in American life," he said in a written statement. "When one group is excluded, whether intentionally or not, the confidence in the administration of justice is destroyed."
Back in the courtroom, prosecutor David J. Smith set the scene for the jury panel of nine women and six men by calling on detectives from Norwich and the Eastern District Major Crime Squad, a paramedic who had responded to the scene and a woman who called 911.
The jury learned that Moore is known as "Boo-boo," a name his mother gave him as a child, that Smart was called "Dee," and that Tjamel Hendrickson, a man known as "Soda Pop," is involved. Hendrickson is accused of robbing a man with Moore earlier in the night.
Crime squad detective Keith Hoyt testified that the victim was lying face up, partially on the sidewalk and partially on the street, in a large pool of blood when he arrived. The scene was strewn with liquor and beer bottles, and there were bloody footprints leading from the crime scene to the back of the building. There were no weapons, shell-casings or cartridges, Hoyt testified.
As the crime squad processed the scene for evidence, Norwich police spoke with witnesses and identified "a secondary crime scene" at 35 Boswell Ave., Hoyt said. They seized a "very large handgun" along with a sweatshirt and a pair of shoes. The investigators said a juvenile had witnessed the shooting and had taken a .50-caliber handgun off of Smart's body as he lay dying on the sidewalk.
On Sept. 7, a resident found a shell casing from a .45-caliber pistol within a few feet of where Smart was shot, according to Detective James Curtis. During his cross-examination, Pattis noted that the crime squad and a number of other police officers had carefully combed the scene without finding a casing.
Curtis will return to the witness stand when the trial resumes today.