By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
But, make no mistake, Whalen will put up a vigorous defense of Campbell, the 19-year-old Farrell man accused of participating in the murder of William Basilone Dec. 30, 2011.
Joshua L. Stewart, 20, was convicted in September of being the trigger man in the Basilone slaying and has been sentenced to life in prison.
“We’re here today because Mr. Stewart did not act alone,” said Assistant District Attorney Lauren Hackett, in her opening statement. “Any and all participants are equally responsible for that individual’s death.”
Basilone’s murder, Whalen said, was a tragedy.
“Let’s not commit a second tragedy by convicting the wrong man,” Whalen told the six-woman, six-man jury in his opening statement.
Video surveillance images are inconclusive, and the man prosecutors will call on to try to sharpen the focus of those images, Tylor Kalenic, is unreliable, Whalen said.
“He will testify that he has lied again and again and again to the police,” Whalen said.
“You will hear very little credible evidence that Mr. Campbell is in any way connected to this crime,” he said.
Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Sgt. Andrew Thomas opened the testimony and presented surveillance video that prosecutors believe shows Stewart, Campbell and Kalenic casing the joint, so to speak, the joint being Basilone’s Roemer Boulevard bar in Farrell, before Kalenic chickened out.
The video also shows Basilone leaving the bar after closing time for an unknown reason and walking toward the alley that runs beside the bar, out of range of the camera’s eye.
“I asked him where he was going and he said to stay there,” said his girlfriend, Marjorie Burger, who was in the bar with Basilone and a friend, Gary W. Wagner.
Burger said she heard a noise and went to check the back door. Finding it locked, she went out the front door and discovered Basilone face down on the sidewalk.
“I thought Bill had fallen,” she said. “I went to help him get up and felt the blood on his back. I went for my phone, which was inside.”
She went in the bar, told Wagner that Basilone had been shot, and asked Wagner to go outside and stay with Basilone while she called for help.
Wagner said he had heard “a series of loud popping noises.”
“I wasn’t sure what it was,” he said.
Two people saw the apparent second series of shots fired at Basilone.
A woman said she heard those popping noises from her apartment’s kitchen on Hamilton Avenue, looked out her window and saw “pinkish-orangish light” reflecting off the exterior wall of the bar.
She said she saw a man in a light-colored hoodie stand over Basilone and shoot him.
A man who was up the street in the other direction saw the same thing. He was in the parking lot of a competing bar when he heard something that sounded like fireworks, then saw a white man staggering like he was drunk.
A second man, who was black, “stuck up his right arm and he started shooting,” the witness testified.
“He (the white man) fell on the ground on his face,” the witness said.
However, the shooter wasn’t done. He “took a couple steps and shot some more,” the man said.
The witness got into his car and drove down Emerson Avenue, keeping an eye on the shooter, who wore a gray hoodie and had taken off running down a parallel alley. The witness said he lost sight of the shooter before he made it to Federal Street.
Whalen kept his cross-examination brief, but his main thrust was effective: Did anyone see Devine Campbell that night? The answer, repeatedly, was no. The two witnesses said they only saw Basilone and his killer in the area.
Thomas had testified that he could identify Stewart, Kalenic and Campbell from the surveillance video. Whalen had argued to the jury that the such identification was unreliable.
He got Thomas to admit that the video is clearer when viewed without being enlarged, but the jury will have only the enlarged footage to look at.
“If you can make out faces in this video footage, you’re a better person than I am because I can’t make out any faces,” Whalen said.
Thomas also told Whalen that a search of Campbell’s home turned up no evidence, and Campbell’s DNA and fingerprints were not found on any evidence related to the crime, including a package of crackers that prosecutors said Campbell can be seen munching on in the video.
Police found the package of crackers in a grassy area not far from the bar.
“The crackers appeared to not have been there very long,” Thomas said, noting they were dry when it had rained much of the day.
Thomas also presented photos from Campbell’s cell phone and Facebook page that show Campbell and Stewart together.
Testimony resumes today.