October 3, 2013
Defense attorneys presented an investigation full of errors and police misconduct during the first-degree murder trial of Taybronne White on Thursday. The 28-year-old faces life in prison for the 2011 murders of Dustin Knighton, Lisa Hwang and Brian Daniels.
White's attorney, Edward Ungvarsky, only called two witnesses to the stand and rested his defense case in under two hours. Jurors were visibly surprised, but legal experts say the burden of proof lies with the Commonwealth's attorney, Ron Morris.
The Commonwealth has to prove it, the defense simply has to raise a reasonable doubt," said Charlottesville defense attorney Scott Goodman. "The defense is saying the Commonwealth has put on all this evidence but it doesn't amount to anything. It does not prove this man, Mr. White, is the one that killed these three people."
The prosecution called nearly 50 witnesses to testify, and spent over a week laying out the facts of the case. But the defense questioned the integrity of the evidence from the beginning, when former reserve deputy with the Greene County Sheriff's Department, James Shifflett, took the stand. Shifflett told the jury he had been convicted of one count of embezzlement for stealing money from the evidence room. He admitted to taking nearly $1,000 from White's evidence bin.
"If a jury, or juror, is looking for a reason not to accept the Commonwealth's case or giving every benefit of the doubt to the defendant...That's certainly a very significant circumstance in this case and one that's very unfavorable to the commonwealth," said Goodman.
Prosecutors say White shot and killed his three friends in a Honda Civic registered to one of the victims, after a botched robbery in Greene County. That car was found hours later on the side of Old Brook Road in Albemarle County. The defense's first witness was a lieutenant with the Louisa County Sheriff's Department called in to help investigate with K-9 Maggie. The officer testified they tracked a scent from the steering wheel of the car to the Abbington Crossing apartment complex on Saxton Avenue.
Testimony from the lead investigator in the case, Sgt. Rodney Snead, revealed that address could be linked to the 9mm pistol used in the murders. According to investigators, the gun was obtained by a felon through a straw purchase. The gun's owner, known by the nickname "Squirt" had a brother who lived on Saxton Court in the Abbington Crossing apartments.
Ungvarsky asked if anyone from the Greene County Sheriff's Dept. had ever collected DNA samples or finger prints from the gun's owner or his brother. Sgt. Snead said "no".
Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for Monday, Oct. 7.
Oct. 3, 2013
After calling only two witnesses to the stand, the defense rested its case in the Taybronne White triple murder trial
Prosecutors say White shot and killed 3 people after a botched home invasion robbery in Greene County.
On Thursday, defense attorneys asked the lead investigator about the 9mm pistol used in the murders, and why the gun's owner was never investigated.
White is facing life in prison.