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March 13, 2003

Jurors acquit man in slaying

From: New Haven Register, CT - 13 Mar 2003

Michelle Tuccitto, Register Staff
March 13, 2003

NEW HAVEN - After the state's witnesses to the murder of Anthony Avery recanted their earlier statements to police while on the witness stand, a jury this week acquitted the man accused of shooting him.

Shonta McPherson, 23, had been charged with murder, carrying a pistol without a permit and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with Avery's death.

The Superior Court jury returned with its verdict late Monday, after deliberating since Friday.

Prosecutors attempted to prove that McPherson fatally shot Avery Feb. 24, 2002, on Truman Street.

Prosecutor David Strollo noted that several key state witnesses recanted their original statements that pointed to McPherson as the murderer.

"I feel sorry for the Avery family, but based on the witnesses' recantations of statements to police, the jury's verdict was understandable," Strollo said. "Obviously, the family would have liked a different result, but there is no way the jury should be faulted. It was understandable that the jury found reasonable doubt."

As the trial proceeded and eyewitnesses recanted, police sources said they feared several of the witnesses had been threatened directly or indirectly by McPherson's associates.

Strollo agreed with this assessment.

"I argued in closing statements that there was evidence that witnesses were afraid," Strollo said.

One witness, Tyrone Hall, who is deaf and doesn't speak or understand standard sign language, testified with the help of interpreters.

While Hall originally told police that he saw the killer's face and picked McPherson out of a photo lineup, Hall testified at trial that he doesn't remember what the murderer looked like.

Sheila Ford, Hall's sister, watched while her brother testified and said Wednesday the interpreters didn't accurately convey what he was trying to say.

"He was saying that it was a guy with dreadlocks who was taller and thinner than (McPherson)," Ford said.

Quinn Avery, the victim's brother and a spokesman for the Avery family, said Wednesday the family is saddened and devastated by the jury's decision.

"We consider it a travesty of justice that a murderer could be set free after all witnesses recanted their original taped testimonials," Avery said. "It's obvious they fear for their own safety and deviated from the truth in the end."

McPherson's attorney, Michael Moscowitz of New Haven, called the jury's decision a fair one.

"The murderer is probably still out there, and the Police Department should continue its investigation," said Moscowitz.

Moscowitz rejected the idea that witnesses recanted their earlier statements out of fear, or because they had been threatened.

"I don't buy that," Moscowitz said.

Instead, he called witnesses' original statements to police into question.

"Mr. Hall doesn't understand the English language or American Sign Language," Moscowitz said. "All he knows is his own language of gestures. He may not have understood everything police asked of him through interpreters."

Michelle Tuccitto can be reached at or at 789-5615. Register reporter William Kaempffer contributed to this story.

©New Haven Register 2003