Thursday, May 8, 2008
The Court Report
By Richard Blassberg
Police Officer’s Self-Deprecating Testimony In Murder Trial Raises Serious Concerns
Westchester County Court, White Plains
Judge James Hubert Presiding
Monday, April 28, the double trial of Defendants Lloyd Braham and Warren Davis, of Mount Vernon, each charged in connection with the
break-in, shooting and murder of Neville Brett, 52, on June 29, 2007, at 138 West 4th Street, Mount Vernon, resumed. Brett resided together
with his brother Michael Brett, with whom he was heavily engaged in the trafficking and abuse of marijuana.
Braham and Davis, who have denied their involvement, are each charged with Felony Murder, accused of having conspired with, and joined with, Carlos Jean-Baptiste and Andrew Crewe, in a robbery of marijuana and cash from the Bretts, who were both Rastafarians. Jean-
Baptiste, the accused triggerman, and Crewe, are charged with First Degree Murder, and Second Degree Murder, respectively, as well as numerous other felonies.
On Friday the 25th, the Prosecution, and Defense Attorneys, Peter St. George-Davis, representing Lloyd Braham, and Mayo Bartlett,
representing Warren Davis, had presented opening arguments; and Prosecutor Julia Cornaccio had examined the first Prosecution witness,
17-year veteran Mount Vernon Police Officer Joseph Cappuccilli, who had been first to arrive at the scene of the crime. Attorney St. George-
Davis now proceeded to cross-examine the witness, who had stated that his regular duties involved the training of other, less-experienced,
St. George-Davis: “You were in a patrol car?”
Officer Cappuccilli: “Yes.” There followed four questions attempting to determine whether there was a working video camera in that patrol car.
However, Officer Cappuccilli could not be made to acknowledge that fact. Mr. St. George-Davis then pursued another line of questioning, “You didn’t know who was shot?” Officer Cappuccilli responded, “No. I followed him (referring to someone he encountered at the scene) to the rear of the location, to the basement where he said someone was shot.”
St. George-Davis: “Did you take any photos?”
St. George-Davis: “Did you write any notes or memos?”
St. George-Davis: “The police report that you wrote, was it from your memo book?”
Referring to the victim, Neville Brett, who Officer Cappuccilli had said was accompanied by his brother, Michael, when he discovered
them, Attorney St. George-Davis asked, “Did you try his pulse?” The officer responded, “No.”
St. George-Davis: “Did you administer CPR?”
St. George-Davis: “It was apparent to you that the victim was deceased?”
St. George-Davis: “Did you interview Michael Brett?”
St. George-Davis: “Did police come in an ambulance?”
Cappuccilli: “We are not capable of transporting anyone.”
St. George-Davis: “What do they carry?”
Cappuccilli: “Medical paraphernalia, oxygen.”
St. George-Davis: “What were you doing when the Emergency Medical Services Unit (ESU) arrived?”
Cappuccilli: “I was securing Mr. Michael Brett and Delroy Melbourne.”
St. George-Davis: “How long did you secure them, stand outside the room?”
Cappuccilli: “Twenty minutes.”
Officer Cappuccilli under continued questioning indicated that he didn’t know who the detectives were who responded to the scene. He acknowledged that he had worked a double shift, and had gotten the call at 11:16pm. However, he would not acknowledge that, after 15 hours of work, he was even the least bit tired; volunteering, “I have been doing double shifts for the last 10 years.”
Attorney Mayo Bartlett now cross-examined Officer Cappuccilli. Barlett proceeded to elicit acknowledgements from Cappuccilli that, amongst his responsibilities, he worked part-time as an ESU of-ficer, and received training in that role. Additionally, he acknowledged that he had had crime scene training 17 years ago, on the job, as well as in the Police Academy.
Bartlett: “What time did you arrive?”
Cappuccilli: “About 11:15pm.”
Bartlett: “Did you call for backup?”
Cappuccilli: “No, I didn’t.”
Bartlett then showed People’s Exhibits 93 and 94 to the witness, photos of Neville Brett, asking, “When you first saw Mr. Brett, did he have his shirt on?”
Prior to admission of the two juries into the courtroom, Mr. Bartlett had stated to the Court, “I would like to make a record. The only purpose of introducing these photographs (that the Prosecution was seeking to put into evidence and publish to the juries) is to arouse sympathy in the jury. We have conceded that Mr. Brett is dead. These are staged photographs. They do not show the victim as he was when
Judge Hubert had responded to Bartlett, declaring, “The photographs are in evidence, and your remarks are simply an expansion of your previous objections. Your motion is denied.”
Mr. Bartlett continued. Referring to the victim, Neville Brett, he asked the witness, “How did you find him?” Officer Cappuccilli responded, “He was lying on his back, and his brother, Michael, was lying over him.” At this point Hubert broke in, asking if he had spoken to the detectives. Cappuccilli acknowledged that he had not. He further acknowledged that he did not look for physical evidence, nor collect any. He admitted that he didn’t check the perimeter of the property, nor secure it. He further admitted that he didn’t search for firearms. Responding to a question from Bartlett, Cappuccilli informed the Court that he was released from the scene by Mount Vernon Police Sergeant Gallagher, and immediately left the area.
On re-direct, Officer Cappuccilli stated he had learned the deceased victim’s name, “from Michael Brett, who was lying over him.” On re-cross examination, by Attorney St. George-Davis, with reference to the victim, Officer Cappuccilli claimed that he determined, “within five to ten seconds, that he was dead,” indicating that he was standing directly over the victim when he made the determination of death, because of the gray film covering the victim’s open eyes.
Attorney Bartlett, on re-cross, then asked, “When you arrived, Mr. Brett was fully dressed?”
Bartlett: “Do you know who took Mr. Brett’s shirt off?”
Bartlett then, once again, showed him People’s Exhibits 93 and 94 In Evidence, trying five separate times to get a response from the witness
regarding two white defibrilator patches on the victim’s bare chest. But each question was “sustained” by Judge Hubert even before formal
objections could be lodged by the Prosecution.
Readers must consider how Of-ficer Cappuccilli, a 17-year veteran of the Mount Vernon Police Department, who acknowledged that his regular duties include training other officers, gave the testimony he gave under cross-examination. It is not unreasonable to consider the instructions and the pressure likely put on him by the District Attorney’s Office, in order to preserve their case theory, that might have
necessitated such a self-deprecating performance.