Defense attorneys in the Marley Lion murder case argued Thursday that preventing defendants from viewing certain evidence could lead to their mistrust of the justice system.
The statements came during a court hearing on a motion that seeks to limit what evidence the defendants are allowed to see. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said that if the information leaks to the public outside jail walls, it could be used to influence witnesses.
Ashley Pennington, the public defender for one of the men accused in the June 16 shooting, said that such a ruling could create an impression that not enough is being done to present the defendants’ side of the case.
“It’s more like a puzzle at this point in time,” Pennington told the judge. “You ... probably have to go through (the documents) a dozen times to connect the dots.”
Judge Stephanie McDonald made no definite decision on the motion Thursday, but she asked the attorneys to more thoroughly examine the evidence, presented to them through what’s known as discovery.
The attorneys then should decide whether keeping their clients from seeing the documents would harm their cases, she said.
“If I hear one peep of a problem on the street ... about any witness or any person in any way being interfered with,” she said, “we will regroup.”
Julius Brown, 32, Bryan Rivers, 28, and Ryan Deleston, 31, each are charged with murder in the failed robbery outside a West Ashley business. Police documents have accused Deleston of firing the five shots that killed Lion.
George Brown, 28, no relation to Julius Brown, is charged with being an accessory after the fact. Police said he saw the other suspects after the crime, heard them talking about it and saw the gun, but did nothing.
McDonald mentioned George Brown’s past of being gunned down at his home as he prepared to testify in a murder trial. He survived the shooting, then refused to testify.
His father, George Brown Sr., said at the courthouse Thursday that his son’s fear of speaking out led him not to do so in the Lion case. The father said he is not concerned for his son’s safety this time because he stayed quiet.
“He just wants to get out and get on with his life,” he said. “He’s a big teddy bear, but if they keep him locked up, maybe they’re raising an animal.”
The solicitor’s motion alludes to past issues with witness intimidation, but it makes no such allegations about the four defendants.
Julius Brown once was a murder defendant, but the case against him fell apart when a key witness was slain. Authorities have not linked the killing to his case.
The bulk of what is in dispute in the Lion case, according to Pennington, is 150 pages of police supplemental reports. He said that his client, Deleston, needs time to pore over the documents, and that the motion would require him to instead read the papers to Deleston.
Such an undertaking would take “hours and hours,” possibly days of precious visiting time at the county jail, he said.
Aaron Mayer, George Brown’s attorney, told the judge that reading case documents to his client rather than handing them over might prevent Brown from finding any inconsistencies in witness statements or the police investigation that attorneys might not come across.
“I haven’t been at this forever,” Mayer said, “but I’ve found that my clients are my best partners.”
The solicitor said it wasn’t her goal to keep the defense in the dark. Instead, the motion is directed at members of the public who could get case information through the court system or the news media.
“I want (the defendants) to have a full investigation,” Wilson said. “I just don’t want it out on the street.”
Toward the end of the hearing, the judge addressed Deleston, assuring him that prosecutors and attorneys wanted to be as transparent as possible so that he gets a fair trial.
Deleston nodded his head.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.