State appeals court overturns conviction in 2007 New London murder

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The state Appellate Court has overturned the murder conviction of Kurtis Turner, who is serving a 60-year sentence for fatally shooting Vernell "Tanko" Marshall outside the former Ernie's Cafe in New London on June 21, 2007.

The court ordered a new trial for Turner after determining he was deprived of his rights at his 2009 trial in New London Superior Court when the prosecution "failed to correct" a witness' false testimony that she did not expect consideration from the state in exchange for testifying against Turner. The woman, Alice Phillips, had an informal agreement with the state that the prosecutor in her own criminal charges pending in a lower court would be notified that she had cooperated. 

Phillips testified that Turner made a statement prior to the shooting that someone was going to die within 48 hours. 

Judges Michael R. Sheldon, Christine E. Keller and Dennis C. Eveleigh heard the appeal in December 2017 and were unanimous in an opinion that will be released officially on Tuesday. The state is likely to petition the Supreme Court to take up the case.

Turner, 29, remains incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield.

"We're reviewing the case and anticipate applying for cert to the Connecticut Supreme Court, but that decision has not been made yet," said Senior Assistant State's Attorney Stephen M. Carney. He had assisted now-retired prosecutor John P. Gravalec-Pannone at Turner's trial and argued the appeal.

Attorney Vishal K. Garg, who had represented Turner in the appeal, declined to comment.

Turner lost his direct appeals of his conviction, then sought relief through a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which is a civil proceeding that is sometimes referred to as an appeal of last resort. The case was tried before Judge Samuel Sferrazza in 2016 and the conviction was upheld. Turner's attorneys were able to take the case to the Appellate Court, arguing that Sferrazza had not applied the correct legal standard in his decision.

Marshall, 23, was fatally shot in the face as the result of a "beef" he had with Curtis McGill and Turner, according to testimony at the trial. McGill allegedly ordered Marshall's killing because he was not paid a debt for the drug PCP. He was tried and acquitted by a Norwich jury in 2008. The state charged a third man in connection with the case but did not prosecute him.

The key piece of evidence at Turner's trial was a videotape the New London police  seized from Ernie's, a Bank Street bar, following the shooting. The video showed Turner and his accomplices walking in and out of the bar several times. The last time Turner walked out, he was seen taking something from his waistband before Marshall fell to the ground.

k.florin@theday.com

 

 

 

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