Murder Acquittal Sparks Outburst

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Murder Acquittal Sparks Outburst

Murder Acquittal Sparks Outburst

By Ann Givens NEWSDAY STAFF WRITER

Debra Nickerson’s cries echoed into every corner of the Nassau County Courthouse Friday when she heard that the man charged with killing her son was found not guilty.

The jurors who had voted to acquit Marvin McKenzie of sec­ond-degree murder were still sitting in the jury box when the wrenching cries rang out and upon hearing them, three jurors dissolved into tears themselves.
Judge Jerald Carter did not hide his displeasure at the ju­ry’s ruling. Speaking to McKenzie’s attorney, William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, Carter said:

“Your client is discharged on the basis of this verdict, and only on the basis of this ver­dict,” he said, throwing papers on to his desk before walking off the bench.

But despite the high emotions by the victim’s family, the judge and even the jury, Petrillo said it was clear the prosecution did not prove its case. “You can’t believe their witnesses,” he said.

During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Mary Biunno said McKenzie, 21, of Laurelton, shot Edward Nickerson, 20 of Far Rockaway, three times after the two got into a street fight in Valley Stream last June.

Petrillo had a pile of evidence to overcome. Two witnesses said they saw the crime from 5 feet away, and another said he heard McKenzie’s voice saying, “I told you not to mess with me,” after the shooting.

A woman who lived nearby said she saw someone matching McKenzie’s description point a gun at Nickerson and shoot, though she could not identify McKenzie specifically.

But both Petrillo and Biunno said some of the witnesses changed their stories between the night of shooting and the time they got on the witness stand.

“There were some credibility issues with the witnesses,” Biunno said. After the verdict, court officers worked hard to control a volatile situation, with Nickerson’s family members crying and raging outside the courtroom while McKenzie sat inside, waiting for a safe exit. Finally about an hour after the verdict, three court officers escorted McKenzie to a car in a parking lot across Old County Road from the courthouse.

Petrillo would not say what McKenzie’s plans are or whether he feels safe, given all the anger aimed in his direction. “He’s just grateful that the jury saw through the web of deception in the witnesses’ stories,” he said.

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