Defense trashes Piazza witness testimony

Keith Epps, also known as Will “Pooh” Hook is on trial in connection with the double murders of Rian Thal and Timothy Gilmore on June 27, 2009. Epps has pleaded not guilty.

The trial of three co-defendants accused of murder in the Piazza slayings continued with testimony from key witnesses presenting what the prosecution called overwhelming evidence of guilt — and a defense attorney saying that testimony isn’t worth the debris on the bottom of his shoe.

Keith Epps, also known as Will “Pooh” Hook, Edward Daniels, and Antonio Wright are on trial for the murders of Rian Thal and Timothy Gilmore. Thal and Gilmore were gunned down inside the Piazza at Schmidts apartment complex on June 27, 2009 in what prosecutors said was a bungled drug robbery.

Wright is being represented by Thomas L. McGill, Epps’ defense attorney is Christopher Warren and Daniels’ case is being handled by Mythri Jayaraman. Daniels has been charged with two counts each of criminal homicide, robbery, conspiracy and weapons offenses.

Epps is charged with two counts of criminal homicide, robbery, conspiracy and first-degree murder; specifically felony murder.

Antonio Wright has been charged with two counts of criminal homicide, conspiracy, criminal conspiracy and firearms offenses.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

One of the witnesses in the case is Katoya Jones, who resided at the Piazza during the time of the murders. Jones, a former acquaintance of Epps, told the jury that the defendant asked her to let his partners into the secure premises and promised her a cut of the money in return.

She pleaded guilty to third degree murder last year.

“Each tenant needs a pass code,” said assistant district attorney Jennifer Selber. “So what does he (Epps) do? He calls Katoya and tells her ‘I need to get in — there’s a lot of money, you’ll get a cut.”

According to Selber, Jones went to the lobby on the day in question and let in three men, Donnell Murchison, now a witness for the prosecution, Antonio Wright and Edward Daniels.

Except — Jones had no idea that people would be killed. She was seen on surveillance cameras letting in the gunmen and eventually folded under questioning by detectives.

A second prosecution witness is Donnell Murchison, one of the alleged triggermen in the case. Last week, in an effort to save himself from facing the death penalty, Murchison pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the first degree. Warren said Murchison’s testimony is worthless.

“Last month Donnell tried to tell prosecutors that Thal was in on the robbery, a despicable lie, that she brought this on herself,” Warren said in his opening statements. “Murchison, Langdon Scott, Katoya Jones — just because they pleaded guilty doesn’t mean you should believe them. Murchison just pleaded guilty a week ago. That’s their witness, the guy who actually committed murder.”

Thal, a well-known party planner and club promoter was an alleged drug dealer, supplying cocaine to the upscale party crowd in Philadelphia. Gilmore, a former Detroit firefighter and long-distance truck driver, transported cocaine from Texas into Philadelphia.

At some point they came to the attention of Epps and his pals, who, prosecutors said, decided to rip them off. In the first attempted robbery, Epps and a partner, identified as Robert Keith, went to the wrong apartment. In a second attempt, one of the alleged accomplice’s turned witness Langdon Scott learned he wasn’t just buying drugs but was participating in a robbery. He backed out. The third time was to be the charm, except that Wright, according to Epps, went crazy and turned “Wild Bill” setting off the deadly shootings.

The trial is expected to continue for the rest of the week.

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