McCoy declines to testify in murder trial

Isaiah W. McCoy

DOVER — Prosecutors have banked heavily on accomplice witness testimony about the alleged May 4, 2010, drug deal turned fatal robbery.

But, at trial on Wednesday the defense pointed to a lack of evidence beyond the witness statements it deemed ever-changing and unreliable.

The defendant, Isaiah W. McCoy, 29, of Dover, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Salisbury, Maryland resident James J. Munford, 30, after allegedly driving to meet him in a Rodney Village area bowling alley parking lot.

He also faces charges of first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and second-degree conspiracy.
Deputy Attorneys General Stephen Smith and Greg Babowal are prosecuting the case.

Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young will decide Mr. McCoy’s fate in the bench trial. Closing arguments are scheduled for 9 a.m. today.

James J. Munford died after being shot in a Rodney Village area bowling alley parking lot in May 2010. (Submitted photo/Munford family)

At the end of the fifth day of proceedings, Mr. McCoy chose not to testify, which Judge Young noted was his right and would not be held against him.

The defendant indicated he initially wanted to take the stand before attorneys Michael Wiseman and Herb Mondros convinced him not to. Mr. McCoy said he fully understood the ramifications of his decision.

“They kind of out-voted me and I agreed after the vote was taken …,” Mr. McCoy said. He wore glasses with a dress jacket and slacks while standing at a podium before Judge Young. “In collaboration with my counsel I have chosen not to testify.”

The defendant’s testimony from the first trial was entered into evidence. Mr. McCoy denied receiving a stolen firearm shortly before the incident.

The defendant has served more than 6 1/2 years. The Delaware Supreme Court declared a mistrial following a 2012 conviction based on the actions of a prosecuting attorney and judge.

Mr. McCoy was housed on death row after the eventually vacated conviction and removed as the Supreme Court discussed the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty statute.

State Police investigation

On Wednesday morning, Delaware State Police Detective Mark Ryde testified that a high school-age witness earlier claimed he gave someone named “Isaiah” a stolen gun from the Camden area within approximately 24 hours prior to the shooting,

Det. Ryde testified there was no evidence showing Mr. McCoy being at the scene other than the accomplice witness testimonies of Mr. Munford’s girlfriend and Mr. McCoy’s nephew.

Besides the two accomplice testimonies, investigators said there was no other confirmation that Ecstasy pills were forcibly taken. Mr. Munford had parked his SUV at the bowling alley and met two persons before a deadly incident, according to their testimony.

No fingerprint or DNA evidence was recovered, Det. Ryde testified. No cell phone records showed Mr. McCoy bragging or making an admission of guilt. Det. Ryde said an interview ploy included telling Mr. McCoy investigators had his phone records when they were to be subpoenaed.

While Det. Ryde testified that he couldn’t be certain Mr. McCoy was seen on any crime scene video, he based his opinion on the defendant’s nephew and Mr. Munford’s girlfriend indicating he was there.

An original kidnapping charge against Mr. McCoy was dropped after Mr. Munford’s girlfriend was found to be untruthful about the circumstances, Det. Ryde testified.

No gunshot residue was collected from the SUV, clothing or hands of Mr. Munford, the detective said. No forensic evidence showed bullets were fired inside the vehicle. Also, according to police, no crime scene reconstruction was conducted.

While Mr. McCoy’s nephew testified that he had met him at Autumn Run Apartments while visiting his girlfriend before the alleged incident, Det. Ryde said no interview of the girlfriend was conducted and it was not determined whether she was an actual person.

Questioned by Mr. Wiseman, Det. Ryde agreed that the bowling alley motion-activated video system wasn’t fully reliable. The defense questioned a 17-minute gap in video regarding the purported events.

Reviewing past testimony

A high school-age witness testified at the first trial that she was nearby when the shooting occurred. But she didn’t pick Mr. McCoy out of a photo lineup.

The detective couldn’t recall why the person who was picked was not investigated further.

The witness could not be located on Wednesday and testimony from the previous trial was read into the record.

Previously, the witness testified to seeing two men, one taller and wearing a black hat with a red insignia acting “oddly” while talking to occupants in the SUV. She got only a partial look at their faces during the one to two seconds as they acted like they wanted the girl to stay out of their business, according to testimony.

Det. Ryde reported that investigators located a black hat with a red insignia in the basement of the home that Mr. McCoy had access to. The witness testified it was what she saw.

At the first trial when Mr. McCoy represented himself the witness said he was not the person she had seen in the bowling alley parking lot.

Det. Ryde said that somewhere between 10 to 40 .22 caliber rounds were found in the SUV’s center console between the driver and passenger bucket seats and he didn’t recall if they were loose or in a box. The detective described them as long rifle bullets. He also said they could be fired from a revolver.

According to the detective, Mr. Munford was felled by a .38 caliber bullet. An identical round was located in the parking lot.

While a police radio transmission reported a small person had been seen fleeing from the vehicle, Det. Ryde said it was unknown if Mr. Munford was the person.

It was mutually agreed that Mr. McCoy stands approximately 6-feet tall, his nephew just under 5-11 and Mr. Munford 5-8.

Inmate takes stand

An inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna testified in the afternoon. He said Mr. McCoy’s nephew had taken responsibility for the shooting during a prison conversation. He said he had passed that information along to the defendant’s previous counsel.

The inmate said he didn’t inform police, the nephew or the attorney general’s office about the alleged disclosure.

The judge determined that the testimony was not allowed to show proof or guilt, only to possibly impeach the nephew’s earlier stance that he was not the shooter.

The inmate, awaiting trial on a weapon by person prohibited and assault allegations, acknowledged being on suicide watch in the prison infirmary the night before. But he said he only claimed self-harm worries to observe females in that section of the prison known as “Cocoa Beach” and being a prison-style “vacation” destination.

The inmate said he believed he would return to his regular cell on Wednesday night. He said he was focused on being back in time to watch the Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots National Football League conference championships on Sunday, which wasn’t possible in the infirmary.
Mr. Munford described

A man who described Mr. Munford and himself as best friends at the time of his death in 2010 testified to often accompanying the late man on Ecstasy pill deals. The late man was always armed with a firearm when dealing, he said.

The witness has served approximately 18 months at JTVCC on racketeering and drug dealing convictions. He testified to also having numerous burglary, theft, shoplifting, theft by false pretense, and bad check cases on his record.

When he knew Mr. Munford, they worked together on a trash truck in the Seaford area. They spent much time together even after hours, going to the beach, partying and drinking, according to testimony.

Regarding Ecstasy pills, he said Mr. Munford “always had them, we always had them.” The pills were sold at clubs and bars and in the man’s hometown, he said, sometimes when they were working.

“I was with him a lot,” he said. “We were together a lot.”

The man testified to last seeing Mr. Munford on the night of his death when he declined joining him on the trip to the bowling alley with him and his girlfriend.

“He wanted me to go with him [and said] he was meeting some people he didn’t know,” the man said.

The man declined to go because he had been away from home for three days and “my wife wouldn’t have it.”

The prosecution focused on inconsistencies in the man’s testimony regarding police interviews and what caliber firearms Mr. Munford possessed. The man said he had not told the truth at times, and noted he was often under the influence of a lot of drugs during that period.

“My best friend had just gotten shot and I didn’t want to put anything more on him,” said the man. He added that he typically did not talk to police and was trying to help Mr. Munford out.

The man said he would have been surprised if no .22 caliber weapon was found in the SUV at the time of the shooting.

Mr. Munford’s mother, who traveled from North Carolina to attend the trial’s opening last week and hasn’t missed a day since, sat in the gallery with her eyes mostly closed and occasionally tearing up slightly, turning away from the front of the court and sometimes trying quietly to maintain her composure.

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