Judge Young: McCoy not guilty on all counts

 

DOVER — Not guilty on all counts.

After over 6 1/2 years of incarceration that included a stay on death row and an overturned conviction, Isaiah W. McCoy was found not responsible for the 2010 shooting death of a Maryland man during a drug deal gone bad in a Rodney Village area bowling alley parking lot.

Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young cited a lack of evidence beyond two accomplices who each had at least four versions of their statements told to investigators, at trial and prison inmates.

Ultimately, a lack of witness credibility trumped the state’s efforts to tie Mr. McCoy, 29, of Dover, to the crime scene on May 4, 2010, or firearm used in Mr. Munford’s demise, Judge Young determined.

Mr. McCoy cried and hugged his attorneys Michael Wiseman and Herb Mondros upon the announcement just after 2 p.m., and did not immediately say anything.

While he was led out of the court room in handcuffs by policy on his way back to Howard R. Young Correctional Center in Wilmington, Mr. McCoy was nearing the end of a path toward freedom as well. Mr. Wiseman was unsure how quickly he would be released from custody.

Disaiah Johhson, pregnant with Mr. McCoy’s child when he was arrested shortly after the shooting, smiled brightly afterward and said she was heading north to the prison to check on his release.

“I’m excited for my daughter who is finally going to touch her father, and he is about to hold one of his children, which he has never experienced,” Ms. Johnson said.

While Mr. McCoy, “Just wants to catch up on life,” Ms. Johnson said he may eventually seek out family in Hawaii. He also expressed interest in speaking to groups as a person who had been wrongly convicted, she said.

The night before the verdict, Ms. Johnson said Mr. McCoy cried and prayed with her, expressing optimism in the Court’s upcoming decision.

“He seemed confident, he spoke in a confident way,” Ms. Johnson said. “I think he believed in Judge Young’s fairness and felt like he had a very strong case that had been proved.”

Mr. McCoy’s 2012 capital murder conviction was overturned by the Delaware Supreme Court due to the actions of a prosecutor and judge during the trial. His death sentence was nullified as the Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of the state’s statute.

Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal, who prosecuted the case with Stephen Smith, offered a statement afterward that “While we are disappointed with the outcome of this case, we respect the decision of this court.

“This was a difficult case and the court indicated the basis for its decision at the time of the verdict.”

Charges included first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and second-degree conspiracy.

Mr. McCoy declined a guilty plea to manslaughter deal from the state just before the six-day trial began last week.

Mr. Wiseman described Mr. McCoy as an “impressive man who’s had a difficult background” and credited his intelligence regarding case law as the trial proceeded.

The morning session

Mr. Wisemen began by arguing for an acquittal based on accomplice witness testimony he deemed shaky, and no other evidence to identify who fired the fatal shot at Mr. Munford.

According to the defense, the recollections of Mr. McCoy’s nephew and Mr. Munford’s girlfriend were inconsistent and changing based on what suited their own situations the best.

The “major untruths,” according to Mr. Wiseman, “Were always told from the perspective of lessening their culpability and shining the light somewhere else.”

Deputy Attorney General Smith characterized the accomplice statements as consistent on key points, and more self-incriminating as they provided more information.

According to the prosecutor, the nephew consistently recalled that Mr. McCoy shot Mr. Munford, and the girlfriend saw him pull a gun from the backseat of the SUV.

With no forensic evidence, according to Mr. Wiseman, the manner of death was uncertain. No DNA or fingerprint evidence was recovered, and no gunshot residue collected, he added. Two bullets were recovered, but their trajectory was undetermined, and at least one other round was not located, the defense said.

No measurements of the vehicles location was made by the investigators, further adding to the doubt, according to the defense.

The defense believed the case was close to proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in closing arguments, and would require “outlandish circumstantial leaps that the Court cannot make,” according to Mr. Wiseman.

A police interview

Possessing a “conscious of innocence” when interviewed by Delaware State Police Det. Mark Ryde on May 22, 2010, the defendant would not answer specific questions regarding his whereabouts because “Mr. McCoy is a bright man and was able to see through these untruths” that police were presenting to him.

While Mr. McCoy denied being the shooter to police and video evidence was not possible. Mr. Smith argued that shots fired from inside the vehicle would not expose him to identification that way.

Mr. McCoy was gleaning information from the detective to strengthen his alibi, according to Mr. Smith, without volunteering information of his own.

The judge noted that Mr. McCoy did not offer resistance when taken into custody, and was reportedly seen acting quite unconcerned as police searched nearby his home during the night of the shooting.

Also, Judge Young said, a Cincinnati Reds baseball hat that supposedly helped connect Mr. McCoy to the scene was left in plain sight when located during a search warrant. His nephew has testified to the duo burning their clothes behind the home, but no evidence of that was shown.

The $700 found in Mr. Munford’s pocket was never linked to Mr. McCoy, Judge Young found, nor were Ecstasy pills purportedly involved connected to prove guilt.

Mr. Wiseman referenced a “seriality of untruths” the Court believed were told by the alleged accomplices that were “staggeringly inconsistent and divergent.”

The judge said it would have been a “formidable challenge” to find corroborating testimony from the nephew and girlfriend that could establish their accounts beyond a reasonable doubt and confirm other evidence.

While the duo did eventually recall a similar scenario regarding events, Mr. Wiseman maintained that the police had filled them in on what was believed to have happened and they adapted their stories likewise.

Based on the evidence presented, Mr. Wiseman said the nephew could be investigated as the shooter. The nephew admitted to lies on the witness stand, and professed to have changed for the better, but the defense pointed to a commutation request when he fraudulently described his whereabouts on the night of the incident.

‘Strange coincidences’

The prosecution pointed to several “strange coincidences” that combined with accomplice witness testimony never wavering from calling Mr. McCoy the trigger man indicated guilt.

According to a “friend with benefits” of Mr. McCoy, the defendant never arrived at a previously scheduled 8 p.m. date on the night and approximate time of the shooting, the prosecution argued.

Also, while Mr. McCoy said he was without a cell phone during that time, the prosecution said phone records showed otherwise, including conversations with Mr. Munford’s girlfriend who brokered the alleged drug deal.

Mr. Smith cast doubt on a conspiracy that would have extended to Mr. McCoy’s gun supplier, Verizon phone records and apparently more sources.

A man told police he received Ecstasy pills from Mr. McCoy the day after the shooting after the defendant previously said he needed to obtain more, according to testimony highlighted by prosecutors.

The girlfriend called Mr. McCoy after the incident, the prosecution said, which was confirmed by phone records. When interviewed by police, the defendant said he did not have a cell phone. The defense attributed that possibility to time passed between the incident and Mr. McCoy’s arrest.

Another man testified to giving Mr. McCoy a firearm stolen from his mother within 24 hours of the shooting, and kept calling the defendant to get it back, the prosecution stated.

While law enforcement may have indeed proved a shooting occurred, according to Mr. Wiseman, there was no evidence that clearly made Mr. McCoy a suspect.

Very little direct evidence was gathered through 20-some witnesses, Judge Young said, and the two accomplices received reduced penalties with the stipulation of testifying, which the Court reviewed carefully.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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