After a late start and three long closing speeches from defense and prosecution lawyers, the judge in the trial of two Tacony men accused in a 2007 racially tinged double murder postponed jury deliberations until Friday.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes sent the jury home at 3:30 p.m. Thursday rather than begin her 90-minute legal instructions the jurors need to deliberate.
The jury returns to the city's Criminal Justice Center Friday for those instructions and will then begin reviewing the case against Gerald Drummond, 26, and Robert McDowell, 28.
Both face possible death sentences if found guilty of first-degree murder in the July 13, 2007, slayings of Damien Holloway, 27, and Timothy Clark, 15, in the 6900 block of Vandike Street. But in a concession to the end-of-year holidays, a penalty hearing - if needed - will take place in January.
Trial witnesses told of bad blood between Drummond and Holloway over race - Drummond and McDowell are white - and because Holloway had a child with Drummond's sister.
Prosecutors say Drummond ordered Holloway and Clark to kneel on the sidewalk, hands clasped behind their heads, and told McDowell to shoot them. When McDowell said he couldn't do it, prosecutors say, Drummond allegedly took the revolver and shot the teen in the back of the head and Holloway in the face as he tried to run. The gun was never recovered, and there was no blood, DNA, or other forensic evidence linking McDowell and Drummond to the murders. But by September 2008, detectives testified, the men had told enough friends for them to be arrested.
A procession of those friends - mostly heroin addicts, tearful and terrorized, with criminal records - testified against the pair. Several said Drummond boasted of killing Holloway for disrespecting his sister and Clark because he was "a loose end."
Drummond's attorney, Michael E. Wallace, called the prosecution's case a "house of sand" built on "polluted, corrupted witnesses" repeating street gossip to garner favor with police and prosecutors.
Wallace said the only disinterested witnesses to testify said that Drummond was at home at the time of the killings of Holloway and Clark.
McDowell attorney Gary Server told the jury McDowell was not guilty of any crime. Even if the prosecution's witnesses are to be believed, Server argued, "nobody has said that Robert McDowell shot anyone." Server also argued that police ignored evidence that Holloway had angered more than a few people who could have killed him.
Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega acknowledged the criminal and drug problems of his witnesses but argued that the information they said came from Drummond and McDowell could only have been known by the killers. Vega said his witnesses' shaky bearing was caused by fear of retaliation from the Drummond and McDowell families.
One of Drummond's brothers, Michael, 24, was charged with intimidating a trial witness last week in a courthouse hallway. He is in custody pending a preliminary hearing on Dec. 29.
Other trial witnesses told of intimidation by Drummond's older brother, David, 28, or McDowell's sister, Tara, 25, who is married to Gerald Drummond and the mother of his two children. "Look at them sitting there," said Vega, referring to the Drummond and McDowell relatives in the courtroom.
"Stand up, Tara," Vega called, and she half-rose from the pew and waved.
"Stand up, David," Vega continued. "You with the glasses and the pink shirt."
David Drummond did not move but looked angrily at the prosecutor.
Both then stormed out of the courtroom, and Tara McDowell could be heard yelling angrily outside. "You saw this," Vega added. "If you feel threatened in this building, with all these people and security, what will happen out on the street?"
Afterward, David Drummond denied that he or his brother Michael intimidated any witnesses. He played for a reporter a recording of a phone call from his estranged wife, prosecution witness Amy Rudnitskas, who testified that David Drummond threatened to take custody of their children if she testified. "Listen to this," Drummond said. "Does she sound intimidated?"