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Witness testimony changes as retrial begins in murder case

At a retrial in a murder case, a witness who found religion while in prison gives a different story of what he said earlier.

By JAMAL THALJI and MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published April 5, 2006


DADE CITY - Scottie Lee "D'Angelo" White's murder retrial got off to a rocky start Tuesday. Two key state witnesses couldn't be found early that day.

Later, another changed his story.

Eventually, cousins Shawana and Latrice Marbra showed up, their lateness unexplained. Latrice Marbra rushed from Orlando to testify that she saw White and an accomplice, Eric Antwon "E-Love" Wilson, gun down "Little" Ronnie Barber outside a Lacoochee club in 2001.

Defense attorney Geoff Cox tried to shake her. Why did she wait five days to tell law enforcement what she saw? Why, at the 2002 trial, did she testify the shooting happened like "a bunch of firecrackers."

"Whatever I said before," Marbra said, "this is what I'm saying now: D'Angelo shot my cousin."

After telling the jury their stories, the women told a St. Petersburg Times reporter this: White and Wilson, who still faces trial in the slaying, tried to stop them from testifying about the shooting that authorities say left their 23-year-old cousin dead.

On the steps of the Pasco County Courthouse the Marbra cousins said White, 39, of Brooksville, offered threats to silence them. Wilson offered bribes, $10,000 apiece.

"The whole time after he was still threatening people," Latrice Marbra said of White.

But no charges have been filed. Assistant State Attorney Manuel Garcia refused to comment on the cousins' story. Cox couldn't be reached for comment on the cousins' claim. Jurors didn't hear about it, either, as Circuit Judge Linda Babb cut Marbra off.

That morning, before the missing Marbras turned up and as the prosecutor scrambled to save the state's case, both sides laid out their respective cases for the jury.

The crime happened outside Rumors nightclub at 11:30 p.m. Wilson's vehicle blocked in Barber's.

"Eric Wilson got out of the driver's side, White got out of the passenger's side," Garcia said, "and gun's a blazin' they started shooting at Ronnie."

His aorta severed, Barber bled to death. At the 2002 trial witnesses said the shooting was revenge for a drug ripoff.

But White's new attorney, Cox, got that 2002 conviction and life sentence overturned last year. White's old attorney was negligent not to call two key witnesses, Cox argued, one of whom will testify that White was helping her move at the time.

Cox's strategy: challenge all eyewitnesses.

"No murder weapon, no fingerprints, the only thing that links Scottie White to this crime is two witnesses out of 200 people in the parking lot the night of the shooting," the lawyer said. "... the evidence will show that neither saw the shooter or can identify the shooter."

There was one witness he didn't have to take on.

In the 2002 trial Albert Jones described how White walked toward Barber with his gun firing. Since then, Jones said, he found religion.

"I seen somebody shoot. I can't tell you who it was," Jones said on the witness stand.

Imprisoned for aggravated battery and assault, Jonessaid his previous testimony was "hearsay ... just what I was hearing in the street."

"When did you have this all-of-a-sudden turnaround?" Garcia said.

"When I accepted Jesus into my life," Jones said. "I'm telling the truth now."

[Last modified April 5, 2006, 00:37:15]


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