New trial ordered for man convicted in 1997 Pa. slaying

October 13, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ordered a new trial for a Harrisburg, Pa., man serving seven to 20 years in state prison for killing a Chambersburg man in 1997.

Bryant Jefferson, 44, was found guilty on Feb. 2, 1999, of voluntary manslaughter in the Oct. 6, 1997, shooting of Charles Green, 22, of Chambersburg. The court ruled that Jefferson's attorney was ineffective for failing to ask the court to give specific instructions to the jury regarding the prior convictions of two key prosecution witnesses.

Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson said last week no decision has been made on whether his office will appeal the ruling or begin preparing for a new trial.


According to court records, Jefferson and Green got into a confrontation when Jefferson and three other people pulled up in front of Green's West Catherine Street home. The confrontation was a continuation of an earlier dispute between Jefferson's girlfriend, Gayle Jones, and another man who rented a property from Jones.

That man had left the scene by the time Jefferson, Jones and the two other people returned, according to court records.

According to the superior court ruling, the prosecution's case relied primarily on the testimony of Green's cousin, Belinda Guice, and Sean Coulter, both of whom were sitting on the porch of Green's home when the shooting occurred.

Guice testified she saw Jones hand Jefferson a black pouch, from which he removed a gun. Coulter testified Jefferson got out of the car with an "attitude" and acted like "something was going to happen," according to superior court records.

Jefferson, who took the stand during his trial, testified the argument was between another occupant of the car and Green. He testified Green went into his home and quickly returned outside.

According to Jefferson's testimony, Green began walking toward a nearby bar when he spun around and pointed a handgun in his direction. That was when, according to Jefferson's testimony, he retrieved the gun from the car and shot Green in self-defense.

The gun that Jefferson said Green pointed at him was not found by police, according to court records. Jefferson and his companions drove away from the scene, but he turned himself in to police a short time later.

The criminal histories of Guice and Coulter were told to the jury during the trial, according to the court. The court stated, however, that a "jury should be specifically instructed regarding the relevance of this evidence and the use which could be made of it in determining the witness' credibility."

Jefferson has less than three years left on his minimum sentence of three years, although his release date would be determined by the state parole board.

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