UPDATE (Feb. 17, 4:39 p.m.) Ntyono Pennie and Torrence Sanders were found guilty on all counts. Both have been sentenced to life without parole.
Check back to www.rockdalenews.com for the full story of the third day of trial.
(Feb. 17, 3;18 p.m.) Closing arguements concluded this morning in the trial of Otyono Pennie and Torrence Sanders for an alleged armed robbery and fatal car crash last year. The jury will receive their charges and deliberate after the lunch break.
Both the defense and prosecution appealed to the jurors’ “common sense” during this third day of the trial.
“Common sense is very important in a case like this,” said Sanders’ attorney, Chris Flynn. He reminded the jury that their job was to determine if the case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
“You don’t have to ask yourself whether Mr. Sanders is innocent,” Flynn said. “Your only job is to decide whether or not the state has put up enough evidence” to convict.
Flynn said that forensic evidence, such as Sanders’ fingerprints found in the car and the DNA match on the inside of the windshield on the driver’s side where there was an impact was circumstantial. “Mere presence at the scene of a crime is not enough to convict someone,” he said.
He argued that the only witnesses that placed Sanders at the scene of the armed robbery in the apartment – shooting victim Danny Rakestraw, his brother Emmanuel Asamoah, and Raymond Carr – were unreliable and the details of their stories of what happened that day varied, such as whether or not there was music or drinking or marijuana smoking. Rakestraw and Asamoah had felony criminal records.
He also argued that if the jury couldn’t convict his client on the armed robbery and assault charges, the felony murder charge for the car crash that killed 56-year-old Shirley Ann Aiken did not apply, since it was charged in connection with fleeing the armed robbery/assault incident.
Pennie’s attorney, Brian Ross, argued that Sanders was the driver of the vehicle and that the felony murder charge did not apply to his client, Otyono Pennie.
“It’s a tragic situation that Mr. Sanders caused,” said Ross.
Ross emphasized that the witnesses were not reliable, since details of their stories varied, and that what happened in the apartment was unknown.
“They might have turned to rob him,” said Ross. “We don’t know. That’s the whole point.”
He said Pennie may have taken the wallets and driver’s licenses of Carr and Asamoah as insurance that they would not Pennie more trouble, since Pennie knew their identities and addresses.
“There is insufficient evidence to convict Mr. Pennie of an armed robbery and aggravated assault that we don’t know occurred,” said Ross.
“It may be probable that they occurred, but that’s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
District Attorney Richard Read opened his closing argument by replaying the dashboard camera footage of the pursuit that ended in the crash that took Shirley Aiken’s life.
The video showed a black Maxima fleeing as the deputy’s car, with lights and sirens, came up behind it in a turn lane. When the Maxima crashed at the Salem Road and Flat Shoals intersection, a passenger with white sneakers, later identified as Pennie, could be seen jumping out and running as the deputy ran after him. Pennie was apprehended at the scene. The driver, with a white item or clothing on his head, could be seen attempting to open the driver’s side door, which was damaged, and later came out the passenger side and escaped.
The case, despite all else that was said, was about Shirley Ann Aiken.
“I sometimes wonder if we’re still capable of being shocked by what goes on around us,” he said. “I think we’ve become numb to it. As long as it’s not on our doorstep or front yard, it’s OK.”
He reminded jurors of the adage that the only thing to allow evil to flourish is for good people do nothing.
“Someone’s going to have to hold the bad guys around us accountable. Today, this is you.”
Read reviewed the charges for each defendant and the evidence that supported the charges.
The details that varied in the stories of the witnesses in the apartment, such as whether or not there was music or whether or not it was a meeting to sell marijuana, was not important to the charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault.
As for the creditability of Rakestraw as a witness, he pointed out that Rakestraw had identified and accurately described two guns, including the one that was found in the car.
Sanders was the driver during the getaway, but was the passenger on the way to the apartment, argued Read. Sanders’ bag, filled with his bills, notebook, and birth certificate, was found in the back seat of the car, and Rakestraw had identified Sanders out of a lineup of photos and had even pointed out that Sanders looked slightly different from the picture in the lineup. When Sanders was eventually arrested, his mug shot showed that he was wearing a twist hairstyle – different than the hairstyle shown in the photo lineup.
“What an amazing coincidence, that Danny Rakestraw would pick a guy who left his bag in the back of the car,” said Read.
“Common sense, logic, reasoning. That’s what this case is about,” he said.
“You get to decide what kind of behavior we will tolerate. You get to decide whether we’re going to be numb or whether we’re going to do something about it.”
Check back to www.rockdalenews.com for the updates and the verdict as it comes in.
(Feb. 17, 12:07 p.m.) Closing arguements concluded this morning in the trial of Otyono Pennie and Torrence Sanders for an alleged armed robbery and fatal car crash last year. The jury will receive their charges and deliberate after the lunch break.
Check back to www.rockdalenews.com for more on this story throughout the day.