This morning marked yet another rocky beginning in the triple first-degree murder trial of Charlie Wyne, who once faced a possible death penalty for a 2007 Lake Worth backyard massacre at the height of what authorities called a gang war.
Attorneys delivered opening statements in the case to a panel of 12 jurors and three alternates. But the start of the case, which was only supposed to take part of the morning, lasted until lunch time as Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal had to take several breaks to listen as lawyers in the case argued over what they could and could not tell jurors.
Most of the issues surrounded Wyne’s defense attorney Jeffrey Glass mentioning prior gun battles between Wyne’s co-defendant, Jarvis Jackson, and members of alleged local street gang Top 6 — whose members were most of the victims in the Lake Worth shooting. This morning, after several objections from prosecutors, Oftedal cleared the courtroom of jurors for a while so both sides could argue further.
Prosecutors Cheryl Caracuzzo and Jill Richstone said they’d agreed that Glass could mention a prior shooting at a Super 8 Motel that claimed the life of Jackson’s younger brother, Jonquinton, but the other prior shootings were off limits.
Glass said he felt entitled to bring up the other shootings because Caracuzzo, in her opening statement to jurors, had referred to the shootings as retaliation.
“There’s no doubt that everyone knows that it was Jarvis Jackson’s retaliation for the killing of his brother,” Glass told Oftedal.
Caracuzzo didn’t dispute that, but said mentioning other shootings — including one at a mall and another on Interstate 95 — was going way out of bounds considering the judge already ruled them inadmissible in a hearing on Wednesday.
Two months ago, attorneys in the case were close to seating another jury when prosecutors asked Oftedal to toss the entire panel after Glass asked jurors whether any of them had seen the History Channel hit show “Gangland”’s documentary on Top 6 — a group Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw once characterized as the area’s most violent street gang. Prosecutors had previously objected to Glass’ mention of Top 6 several times, and Oftedal, who had ruled in the state’s favor on each of those prior objections, agreed with prosecutors that the panel had been tainted and sent them all home.
That delayed Wyne’s trial until a new round of jury selection began last week.
Part of Glass’ defense is to highlight the war between Wyne’s co-defendant, Jackson, and several members of Top 6. Investigators say Jackson had a beef with Top 6 member Wilbertson Noelzinord. But the feud led Jackson on a murderous rampage after the Sept. 2006 gun battle outside a Lantana Super 8 Motel left his older brother, Jonquinton, dead.
One of the men killed in the attack was 23-year-old Edson Marcel, believed to be one of Top 6’s founders. Edrice Fleurme, 29, and Monfred Pierre-Louis, 32, were also killed but not believed to be Top 6 members. Noelzinord was critically wounded but survived. Top 6 leader Futo Charles was in the yard at the time, but escaped without injury.
Wyne had originally faced a possible death penalty in the case, but prosecutors later dropped that pursuit. If convicted of the murder charges, Wyne faces life in prison.
Jackson is still awaiting trial, but a third man charged in the killings, Patrick Thompkins, accepted a 25-year plea deal in the case in 2007.