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Defense rests in triple killing trial

After a week of testimony aimed at bolstering a mistaken-identity defense, attorneys for Ibrahim Muhammed and Nalik Scott - accused in a 2011 triple killing - rested their case Monday afternoon.

After a week of testimony aimed at bolstering a mistaken-identity defense, attorneys for Ibrahim Muhammed and Nalik Scott - accused in a 2011 triple killing - rested their case Monday afternoon.

They called to the stand again a Philadelphia police detective who last week testified for the prosecution about the investigation that led to Muhammed's arrest.

Police have said they connected two earlier armed bodega robberies to the Sept. 6, 2011, robbery at the Lorena Grocery in West Philadelphia, during which Porfirio Nunez, 50; his wife, Juana, 44; and his sister Lina Sanchez, 48, were killed.

Detective Joe Murray previously testified that he had watched a video of one of the earlier robberies - at 62nd and Reedland Streets in August 2011 - several hundred times, hoping to identify the men in the video. Police believed that those robbers had also committed the Lorena killings.

Murray said that in February 2012, Muhammed was brought to the Southwest Detective Division on an unrelated drug charge and that he recognized him from the video, by his nose, and by a watch he was wearing.

On Monday, when Murray returned to the stand, defense attorneys challenged him on a fingerprint found in the store - that of another man, Andre Tucker, who is bald and has a missing front tooth.

Witnesses in the other bodega robbery believed to be connected to the Lorena killings described one of the gunman as having a gap in his teeth. On Friday, defense attorneys played a grainy video of the Reedland robbers that appeared to show one of the gunmen with a bald head.

"But you never went to talk to [Tucker] - no one from the Police DEpartment, in five years, did," Muhammed's defense attorney, Larry Krasner, said.

Murray said on the stand that he had called Tucker's employer, who said that Tucker had been at work on the day of the robbery, although he had not made a report of the call.

And, he said, Tucker wasn't a suspect to begin with. The print found at the Reedland robbery was a left handprint lifted from the store's glass deli case, he said. In the surveillance video, Murray said, the gunman he later recognized as Muhammed only touched the deli case with his right hand.

Later, Krasner played a clip from the robbery that showed the gunman placing his left hand on shelves on top of the deli counter - and suggested that the camera didn't show an area of the case where the man could have placed his hand.

Defense attorneys also called to the stand one of Muhammed's neighbors, who was captured on video trying to enter the Reedland bodega during the robbery. She said she was turned away at the door by one of the robbers, so walked back down the block, where, she said, Muhammed was sweeping the street.

"I know for sure he wasn't there [in the bodega]," she said. On cross-examination, prosecutor Carlos Vega questioned why the woman had not spoken to police at the time of the robbery, and why she had not come forward when Muhammed was charged with a triple murder.

"I didn't know he was charged with [the Reedland robbery] - had I known, I would have come forward from day one," the woman said.

Closing arguments are expected to begin by Wednesday.

Judge Glenn Bronson also addressed a matter raised Friday afternoon after the jury was dismissed for the day. Prosecutors said that they found a photo of the courtroom posted on Scott's Facebook page, and that they had jailhouse recordings of Scott's giving his Facebook password to his mother. Bronson had threatened a six-month jail term for whoever took the photo.

Defense attorney Jack McMahon told Bronson Monday that he had asked Scott to send him photos of himself taken around the time of the murders, and that Scott had given his mother his Facebook password so she could retrieve them from his account.

He said the photo was shot from the courtroom benches, depicting Scott, McMahon, and a law clerk in the background. "Trial starts tomorrow. Supporting my bro. It's in the hands of Allah," McMahon said the caption read. It's unclear who took the photo, or how many people had Scott's password, he said.