Defense lawyers in ‘Junior’ murder case want to throw out some identifications made by star witnesses

Posted at 7:18 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-04 19:18:12-04

THE BRONX — Lawyers for five murder defendants charged in the June stabbing of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz asked a Bronx judge to throw out some of the suspect identifications made by the two, star witnesses.

Defense attorneys said the two men who made video statements to police “were there to try and curry favor and to diminish their liability” in Junior’s murder.

Prosecutor Morgan Dolan acknowledged, “These are co-conspirators, co-defendants,” the first time the district attorney’s office used that phrase about Witness A and Witness C.

Witness A started cooperating with police on June 23, 2018, two and a half days after the 15-year-old Junior was set upon by a mob of alleged Trinitarios gang members wielding knives and a machete.

Witness A had fled to the Dominican Republic after the crime and did not actually witness the stabbing in person. But a Bronx detective testified last week Witness A told him he rode in a getaway car with several stabbers after the June 20 attack, later telling cops “who was who” when he was shown surveillance footage of the vicious stabbing.

Witness A was not able to give a name for Jonaiki Estrella Martinez, one of the five accused of murder in the first degree.

“He didn’t =know= my client. He didn’t =identify= my client,” said defense attorney Kyle Watters. “Yet he was able to say that Jonaiki was the person who stabbed someone in the neck.”

The prosecutor defended Witness A’s identifications, telling the judge he was reliably able to testify about overt acts that happened.

Regarding Witness C, identified by PIX11 as alleged gang leader Diego Suero, the prosecutor emphasized “there is more than sufficient familiarity” with the five suspects.

One of the bombshell revelations to come out at the pre-trial hearing was testimony concerning Suero and a police video he made.

Detectives testified that he identified the five stabbers, claiming he was the “head guy” of the Sure set of the Trinitarios.

One source told PIX11 Suero had tried to downplay his own involvement in the case, which allegedly began with a gang meeting at his Boston Road apartment.

The source told PIX11 Suero said he didn’t tell his gang bangers to kill anybody. The group reportedly met back at Suero’s apartment after the Junior murder.

Suero is charged with second degree murder, yet he has not been characterized as a cooperating witness.

Witness A has not been publicly charged with any crime, yet PIX11 revealed last fall he’s been cooperating.

Toni Messina, defense attorney for Manuel Rivera, said of both witnesses, “They’re trying to trade information and benefit from the information they give to police.”

Messina then followed a move made last week by fellow attorney, Martin Goldberg, noting that witness/ co-conspirator, Diego Suero, referred to Junior as a member of the Sunset Trinitarios.

The prosecutor then noted Judge Robert Neary had sustained her objections on this characterization last week.

Defense lawyer Amy Attia is seeking to expunge an alleged statement made by her client in Paterson, New Jersey—after he was captured there and held in the local police precinct.

A detective testified last week that Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago had “puffed out his chest” and bragged “I am a real Dominican,” when he was moved in handcuffs from one part of the precinct to another.

Santiago’s attorney said Thursday, “I would move to exclude that statement. What relevance does that have to the case?”

Judge Neary said he would consider Attia’s argument.

The defense team and prosecutors are supposed to meet privately with Judge Neary this coming Monday, April 8, to discuss questions for a jury questionnaire.

There’s been an enormous amount of pre-trial publicity, and lawyers will try to determine just how much prospective jurors have been exposed to.