Witness recants testimony at murder hearing, but charges upheld
"They circled his picture and said that was the one they wanted," a witness said of how homicide detectives' allegedly coerced him into identifying a suspect.
At a preliminary hearing today in the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, a witness recanted his identification of a suspect charged with a 2012 murder, claiming police coerced and threatened him.
Terrell Antwon, 24, was arrested and charged in August 2013 for two murders that occurred in 2012 -- the death of Joel Watson, 41, a military veteran, in May 2012, and the death of Johnika Tiggett, 25, in November 2012.
While the Tigett charges against Antwon were dropped due to "lack of prosecution," according to court documents, Antwon still faces charges for the death of Watson, who was shot to death while chatting with a woman on the front steps of a house on the 4600 block of North 16th Street near Wyoming Avenue, opposite the street from Stenton Park.
At a preliminary hearing today for that case, witness Dante Davis, 35, who was standing near Watson at the time he was killed but survived unharmed, denied a police report saying Davis had identified Antwon as the shooter.
"No," Davis answered, when asked if he saw the shooter in the courtroom.
"They circled his picture and said that was the one they wanted," Davis testified, when asked why during a previous interview with homicide detectives he picked Antwon's mugshot out of an array of six mugshots.
Davis testified that while he, during the May 28, 2012 incident, he saw the shooter emerge from the park across the street, pull out a "long" gun and fire more shots than he could count, the shooter wore a hoodie covering his face and Davis couldn't see him.
The police report also indicated that Davis said he had known Antwon as "Rel" for years. Davis contradicted that, saying "I don't know him," pointing at Antwon.
Davis said that he lied because detectives threatened to arrest him for probation violations. But Davis also seemed to be saying that he feared retaliation.
"Whatever the case may be, I don't want to be no part of it. It don't have nothing to do with me," he said. "I'm not going to put someone in that situation when I'm not 100 percent. I'm not going to put my family in that."
Philadelphia Homicide Unit Det. Tracy Bayard, who testified at the hearing regarding the interview in which Davis said he lied, testified that no coercion or threats were made during the interview.
Bayard said Davis circled Antwon's picture, signed it, wrote "shooter" above it, and then wrote an arrow pointing at the picture with the word "had Mac/Tec."
Davis denied writing those words.
Bayard testified that Davis seemed to fear retaliation and did not want to be in court for the hearing.
"He didn't want to be here ... He didn't want dudes from the neighborhood coming after him and his kids," Det. Bayard testified. "He was more worried about his kids than himself."
Despite Davis' recantation, based on police evidence Antwon was held for trial on the murder charges.
"That sort of scenario does happen a lot," defense attorney James Berardinelli said after the hearing of the situation Davis described.
"It's very tough to fully gauge what our defense will be until we get all the discovery in the case," Berardinelli. "Obviously at a trial, we’re going to be challenging that witness."
Antwon will be formally arraigned on the indictment Feb. 25.
Follow Sam Newhouse on Twitter: @scnewhouse
Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly
Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia