Lewis fails to get trials separated

Three defendants will be tried together

May 06, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will not get the separate trial he had wanted, a judge ruled yesterday in Atlanta.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner rejected a request by Lewis that he be tried apart from his two co-defendants on the murder and assault charges they all face. The joint trial is scheduled to begin May 15.

With the judge's order, Lewis. 24, will be tried alongside Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore, and Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami, as orginally planned.

The three are charged with assault and murder in connection with the deaths of Jacinth Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, both of Decatur, Ga. The men were stabbed to death on an Atlanta street at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 31, as the city celebrated the Super Bowl played there the night before.

Oakley had also unsuccessfully requested his own trial.

"The Court is not persuaded that the issues raised by the Defendants justify severance of the Defendants' trials in this case," Bonner wrote in an order faxed yesterday to the defense attorneys and the prosecutor.

Such "severence" requests are rarely granted, unless a defendant can prove he is going to offer a defense that contradicts the others involved in the case. Generally, the costs to prosecutors and the inconvenience to witnesses and other participants prompts judges to keep cases together.

Had Lewis won a separate trial, it would have provided him with a tactical advantage going into court, legal experts say. It would have spared him the "spillover effect" of having jurors judge him by the company he keeps - namely his co-defendants.

A separate trial would have made it easier for Lewis to testify in his own defense and discuss his -- but not the others' -- actions if he decides to take the stand.

Ed Garland, one of Lewis' lawyers, did not immediately return a message left at his office. Prosecutors said they could not comment because of a gag order.

Garland has said Lewis did not stab the two men and was not involved in the fight that preceded their deaths. Witnesses accounts have differed although several have said they saw Lewis throwing punches during the scuffle outside an Atlanta nightclub.

The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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