In Harlem recently, a 37-year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic who worked as a delivery person for Papa John's was shot and killed as he rode his bicycle to the pizza shop.
The deliveryman was killed on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at approximately 10:30 p.m. His alleged attacker, 29, was arrested on Sept. 1 and charged with murder, assault, weapons charges and menacing. The Harlem man's arraignment was scheduled for later that same day.
Nabbed with a warrant
New York Police Department (NYPD) officers with the Warrants squad picked up the defendant after someone identified him from the video. Although it remains unclear what directed police attention to the suspect, the two individuals had previously had an acrimonious relationship, it was reported.
Caught on tape
The video of the attack indicates that the deliveryman did not anticipate the shooter's violence. He leisurely rides his bicycle up to the Papa John's restaurant on Amsterdam Ave. at West 145th St. at about 10:30 p.m. He never sees the alleged shooter behind him as he dismounts from the bike. Police believe the shooter had been following his target on the street.
The video shows a couple of men confront him in the street as his leg swings off his bike. Then, a shadowy figure seems to extend an arm towards him right before he collapses onto the sidewalk underneath of the bicycle.
Emergency responders transported the mortally wounded man to Harlem Hospital. According to police, he succumbed to his injuries after arrival.
Clarity of evidence a factor in defense
Anyone who has ever viewed grainy surveillance video footage knows that it is often impossible to make out the action in the frame, let alone identify the alleged suspect in an attack. This is especially true when the recording takes place outside at night, with figures who are partially shrouded in shadows.
Without being privy to all of the evidence in this particular case, it's impossible to judge the strength or weakness of the prosecution's case against this specific defendant. However, it's a good example of evidence that can definitely be challenged in court.
As evidence, eyewitness testimony is also notoriously unreliable and subjective. Police and prosecutors can "lead" a witness to "remember" things they supposedly saw that coincidentally dovetails with the details of the suspect they have already arrested.
Stalwart defense can lead to acquittal
It's never possible to predict with any degree of accuracy how a jury will rule on any given case. But mounting evidentiary challenges and casting doubt on eyewitness recollections can plant the necessary seeds of doubt that may cause juries to find defendants not guilty of serious charges.