ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — The credibility of a key witness in the trial of two men charged in the Wilkinsburg mass shooting is now in question — and it could potentially lead the judge to dismiss the charges against one of the suspects.
The homicide trial against Cheron Shelton and Robert Thomas is less than a week away nearly four years after they allegedly killed five people and an unborn baby during a backyard barbecue.
But a judge is still deciding if charges against Thomas should be dismissed and whether a key prosecution witness will be allowed to testify.
Tuesday afternoon during a motions hearing about discovery, prosecutors told the judge witness #3 provided information on 13 criminal cases.
We learned during the hearing that witness spoke to Allegheny County police and admitted to being involved in, or having direct knowledge of, six crimes and having hearsay information about seven others.
Defense attorneys said they learned the witness also confessed to killing 15-month-old Marcus White Jr. during a shooting in 2013.
No charges have been filed in that case.
It’s information Thomas’ attorneys said they only discovered last week, leading them to file a motion to dismiss.
“A jury was already picked and selected, a death penalty jury at that. That’s why it’s so much more difficult for the defense to properly prepare,” said defense attorney Phil DiLucente.
Since there’s a gag order in the case, we asked DiLucente how likely it is the charges against Thomas could be dismissed or whether the witness will be allowed to testify.
“Is it so highly prejudicial that the defendant cannot get a fair trial. He will then have to determine and disseminate whether or not this late-producing material actually rises to that level,” DiLucente said.
Defense attorney Randall McKinney estimated that 80 percent of the commonwealth’s case against Thomas is linked to witness #3, so Friday’s decision from Judge Borkowski could have a major impact on this trial.