ELYRIA — Two witnesses refused to take the stand Friday and testify against Bohannon Miller during his aggravated murder trial.
Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Sherry Glass has argued that both Raymond Fowler and Larry Blake were being intimidated by Miller, who is accused of killing Marquis McCall during a June 22, 2009, drive-by shooting in Lorain, or by those associated with him.
Concerns about the safety of the witnesses prompted county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi to close his courtroom to all but the media Friday during a hearing on whether potential witness Raymond Fowler had been threatened by Miller or his associates.
Fowler, who is jailed on unrelated charges, hasn’t been charged in connection with the McCall shooting, although he has told police he was in the car with Miller when he allegedly opened fire at McCall and others.
Prosecutors wanted to allow Lorain police Detective Buddy Sivert to testify about what Fowler and Blake had told him if the two men refused to take the witness stand. Defense attorney Denise Wilms argued that allowing Sivert to testify about what Fowler and Blake told him would deny Miller his constitutional right to confront his accusers.
Glass said if Miller was responsible for the threats that caused witnesses to refuse to testify then he had forfeited the right to face those witnesses in court.
Fowler told Miraldi that he had been attacked in prison several times. He also said he had been threatened by Miller, as well as by members of the McCall family.
“I fear for my life all the way around the board,” Fowler said.
He said he didn’t want to testify because of his concerns about his safety, although he also wanted to know whether he would be charged with murder if he refused to testify.
“I feel threatened by the state of Ohio,” Fowler said.
Under the terms of an agreement with prosecutors, Fowler was supposed to testify against Miller and in exchange he wouldn’t be charged in connection with the McCall shooting. But Glass said she couldn’t answer his question about whether his refusal to testify Friday would lead to him being charged now.
Glass told Fowler that if she answered that question it would appear to be an attempt to influence him.
Fowler also said he didn’t think Miraldi or anyone else involved in the trial was concerned about his safety and suggested they would be responsible for his death.
“Y’all the killers,” he said. “… If I can’t win with the law, then what?”
Miraldi replied that the whole point of the hearing was because he was worried about Fowler’s safety.
Blake, who faces murder charges himself for allegedly driving the car used in the McCall shooting, also refused to take the stand Friday.
He said he wasn’t being intimidated by Miller but rather blamed his refusal to testify on Glass as he was led out of the courtroom
The jailed Blake made it clear from the time he entered the courtroom that he didn’t want to be there and wasn’t going to testify. He said he would refuse to speak if he was brought in before a jury and cursed at Miraldi during his brief court appearance.
At one point during the hearing, Blake said, “It’s over,” before trying to get up and walk off the witness stand. He was stopped by several deputies in the courtroom.
Sivert had testified earlier in the day that although Blake had cooperated in the past, he also had told police he was concerned for his safety.
Miraldi ultimately agreed to allow Sivert to testify about what Fowler told him, but rejected allowing the detective to do the same about his conversations with Blake.
Sivert told the jury that Fowler told him that on the night of the shooting, he was sitting in a gold Ford Taurus with Miller, Blake and Dale Atkinson when Miller received a call from his father.
Miller’s father told him that Chris Hill, Miller’s cousin, had died from injuries received in a shooting earlier in the day, Sivert said Fowler told him. That call led those in the car to drive to the intersection of West 13th Street and Long Avenue, where Miller allegedly opened fire at a group of people that included McCall and Craig Roberson. McCall and Roberson were both shot, but only Roberson survived.
Sivert said he and other detectives were in the area at the time and he had seen a gold Ford Taurus drive by. He said he heard what he initially thought were firecrackers, but then realized that it had been a shooting.
He testified that he and other officers rushed to the scene and began investigating.
About nine minutes later, Sivert said, police received a call from a woman who had seen four men park a Taurus outside her home, wipe it down and walk away. Police later found a spent shell casing in the sunroof, which matched casings found at the Long Avenue shooting scene.
They also found the fingerprints of Blake and Atkinson in the car, Sivert said.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday.