The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 21, 2013

2 inmates may testify in Campbell's trial for Basilone murder

Judge will decide extent of questioning

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER — Prosecutors in Devine A. Campbell’s murder trial have two witnesses left in their case, but it will depend on a judge’s ruling this morning whether both will testify and how extensive one will be questioned.

Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems said Wednesday he wants to call a state prison inmate who “became acquainted” with Campbell and Joshua L. Stewart while they were all incarcerated together.

While the inmate testified at Stewart’s trial, Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher St. John said wants to know what the inmate will testify to before deciding whether he can testify and what he can questioned about.

The decision also will impact the defense, which wants to call inmates to impeach the prosecution’s inmate witness.

Either way, it appears the defense will gets its turn later today.

“There is a question as to Mr. Campbell, whether he will testify or not,” said lead defense attorney J. Jarrett K. Whalen.

Campbell is charged with second-degree murder and two counts each of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for allegedly playing a role in the slaying of William Basilone Dec. 30, 2011, outside Basilone’s Roemer Boulevard bar in Farrell.

While Stewart has been convicted of shooting Basilone, Campbell has been accused of participating in the plot.

According to prosecutors, Campbell and Stewart intended to rob the bar and to rob Basilone.

With Southwest Mercer County Regional police Sgt. Andrew Thomas on the stand, Thomas asked whether anything was stolen from Basilone’s person.

“To my knowledge, nothing was taken,” Thomas responded.

“You don’t have any reports of anything missing?’ Whalen continued.

“To my knowledge, no,” Thomas said.

Thomas and patrolman David McMinn testified about the initial response to a call of shots fired, and the subsequent investigation of the murder.

McMinn was the first policeman on the scene and collected the initial statements from Basilone’s girlfriend, who found him shot, and a friend, who was in the bar. He also collected three .22-caliber shell casings found in the alley next to the bar.

Thomas described where all nine shell casings were found, the position of Basilone’s body once he fell to the sidewalk, and described dozens of photographs of the crime scene and the views three witnesses had of the scene. Two testified they saw Basilone being shot, and one said he saw someone running through the alley.

Thomas also explained that police never recovered the murder weapon and the casings and recovered bullets and bullet fragments remain at the state police crime lab. Every time police “recover” a .22-caliber handgun, they send it to the lab to determine whether it fired the fatal shots, Thomas said.

Dr. Joseph Ohr, Mahoning County, Ohio, deputy coroner and medical examiner, described the autopsy he performed on Basilone. He found that Basilone had been shot seven times and died of multiple gunshot wounds, although a bullet to the heart that also severed two arteries was the “most immediately fatal” injury.

The parties stipulated to the findings of firearms and fingerprint experts, meaning their reports were entered into evidence without the experts having to testify. The reports do not implicate Campbell.

St. John also interviewed a juror who reported after testimony finished Tuesday that she recognized a witness and had gone to a trade school with her. The juror said she and the witness were not friends and she had not seen her for several years.

The juror said she could remain fair and impartial and no one objected to her staying on the panel.