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'Scared' juror is replaced

Judge excuses her in murder trial of Hakeem Bey

Only 10 minutes into the prosecutor's closing argument yesterday, juror No. 9 fanned herself and signaled for a break in the fourth day of the capital-murder trial of Hakeem Bey.

Two police officers and a spectator said they heard the juror say: "I'm scared. I don't think I can do this," then lower her head.

The case against Bey, 26, on trial in the Sept. 24, 2000, fatal shooting of Moses "MoMo" Williams, has been fraught with witness intimidation.

Five potential witnesses have been killed and two wounded. The dead include Chante Wright, a once-protected witness who was slain Jan. 19 and whose prior testimony was read into the court record this week.

Octavia Green, who was not linked to the case, was killed with Wright.

Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes recessed to check on the juror, who, sources said, had needed air and food. The judge, prosecutor and defense attorney were unaware of the juror's comments.

Shortly before the trial resumed at 2 p.m., the judge called Officer Lamarr Coles, who had heard the juror's remarks, to testify in her chambers. A half-hour later, the jury returned to court.

Sipping water, juror No. 9 looked at the spectators and immediately asked to leave. Half of the seats were filled by Bey's family and friends, the other half with police, prosecutors, media and Williams' relatives. The black female juror was then replaced with a black male.

In the defense's closing, Bey's attorney, Joseph Santaguida, dismissed the testimony of most prosecution witnesses, saying there was no evidence against his client. He highlighted only witnesses who would not identify Bey.

Wright and her friend were killed by a "kook," Santaguida contended, and not in a conspiracy involving cell-phone calls linked to Bey, as the prosecution contends. "No one can say who used those cell phones," he added.

The only evidence Santaguida presented was a Dec. 3 photo, taken six weeks before Wright was killed. Dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Bey stands beside Wright, who is sitting. Santaguida contended that they had been friends.

Holding up the same photo, Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega, said to the jury, "Look at that smirk!"

"That photo says, 'Even though I'm in jail, my people will still get you,' " said Vega.

Then, the prosecutor offered a moving account of how "good people" are trapped in a South Philadelphia neighborhood riddled by violence and terrorized by Bey and other gangs. As Vega spoke, Bey fixed a deadly stare upon the assistant D.A.

Vega reffered to a mother said she had whispered Bey's name to a cop at the murder scene, and her daughter, who had placed Bey at the scene before Williams was killed.

Both mother and daughter, who live near Bey, recanted their statements this week.

Vega talked about the "scared" occupants of the station wagon in which Williams was killed. Bencis Drew, the driver, who had been wounded in both legs, acknowledged to police only that Williams had been in the car and reveal nothing else to police.

"He's scared," said Vega, just like Bernard "Nard" Ruff, who was sitting in the backseat.

A third occupant, Duane Clinkscales, known as the rapper "Wiz DeNiro," told investigators, "My friend says it was Hakeem," Vega added.

Then, two of Clinkscales' friends were killed: Malik Noel on Dec. 24, 2000, and, Omar Morris, the next day. On the third day, Clinkscales wore a bulletpoof vest, when he was repeatedly shot in the front, side and back as he ran, fell and escaped.

Two years later, Clinkscales came forward. He admitted Bey had tried to kill him; Bey shot at Noel and Wright escaping in a car minutes after Clinkscales believed Bey fatally shot Williams.

"[Clinkscales] was brutally honest," said Vega. "His people are not going to back him and Hakeem wants him dead."

Then, Vega talked about "Chante, that little girl who knows the streets," who was tracked down by detectives after her fingerprint was found on the station wagon.

"She did something that those hardcore guys were afraid to do" - identify Bey as the Williams' killer a month after the murder because, she said, "Mo was my friend," said Vega.

"She has paid the ultimate price of friendship, honor and doing the right thing," said Vega.

Then, as if he were Chante Wright, Vega told the jury:

"I died. Believe my words. You did everything to protect me from all the pain and hurt from [Bey], the man, the gun, the trigger finger. Find him guilty of first degree murder."

At least one juror and a few spectators were in tears. *