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March 4, 2003

Deaf-mute man takes stand in murder trial

From: New Haven Register, CT - 04 Mar 2003

Michelle Tuccitto, Register Staff
March 04, 2003

NEW HAVEN ? The key witness in the state's case against a man accused of gunning down Anthony Avery last year told a jury Monday that he "doesn't remember" what the gunman looked like.

But the jury also heard deaf-mute witness Tyrone Hall's original taped statement to police, in which he testified he saw the killer's face and picked the accused, Shonta McPherson, out of a photo lineup. The taped statement was made with the help of an interpreter.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that McPherson, 23, killed Avery, who was murdered Feb. 24, 2002, on Truman Street. Avery was 37-years-old and died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

McPherson, who is on trial in Superior Court in New Haven, faces charges of murder, carrying a pistol without a permit, criminal possession of a weapon and use of a firearm during a felony.

Hall, who cannot hear, speak, read, write, or completely understand standard sign language, testified Monday with the help of three interpreters. Hall communicated in gestures to a deaf-mute interpreter, who then translated it into standard sign language to two other interpreters, who took turns speaking aloud what Hall had to say. When attorneys questioned Hall, the process worked in reverse.

Prosecutor David Strollo asked Hall what he saw that night.

"I don't want to talk about it ? I'm all done with it," Hall said, through interpreters. "At the time of the shooting, I was on drugs, I don't remember what the person looked like."

Strollo stood behind McPherson and asked if he was the one who did the shooting.

"I don't know if it was that man," Hall testified.

Judge Bruce Thompson subsequently allowed the jury to hear the original taped statement, which Hall gave to police. In that statement, Hall also spoke through interpreters.

New Haven police Detective Clarence Willoughby, who took Hall's statement, testified Monday that Hall told police he saw the shooter's face and picked the accused out of a photo lineup.

In the tape-recorded statement played to jurors, Hall indicated he saw two men arguing, and a man pulled out a knife.

The other man then shot the man with the knife, Hall said, in the statement.

Police showed Hall the photo lineup, and he made a positive identification of one of the men, according to the tape played in court.

Hall was asked, "Are you sure that is the gentleman you saw shoot the subject with the knife?"

On the tape, Hall answered, "Yes," through the interpreter.

The shooter had been wearing a mask, but removed it, according to Hall's taped statement.

The trial resumes today, when defense attorney Michael Moscowitz is expected to cross-examine Hall.

Michelle Tuccitto can be reached at or at 789-5615.

©New Haven Register 2003