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Deliberations to resume Monday for pair charged in Berkeley County slaying

June 15, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • James G. Cross and Thomas A. Grantham
File photos

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Jury deliberations began Friday afternoon for James G. Cross Jr. and Thomas A. Grantham Jr., co-defendants in the stabbing death of one man and wounding of another in April 2011.

The case went to the jury at 2:35 p.m. At 5 p.m. the panel members asked presiding 23rd Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes if they could go home for the weekend. Deliberations resume Monday at 9. am.

Grantham, 36, and Cross, 33, both of Martinsburg, are being tried on multiple counts, including first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Andre Jackson, 21, in the early morning hours of April 23, 2011. The pair is also accused of stabbing Jacques Taylor who was seriously wounded.

The motive for the attack remained vague throughout the four days of testimony. The defendants did not know the victims until all four met in the Brickhouse Bar and Grill on Midland Avenue earlier that night.

There was a verbal altercation in the parking lot at 3 a.m. when the bar closed. The four, still in their cars, had more words in the parking lot of a nearby Exxon gas station.

They ended up on Rock Cliff Drive near Polo Green Drive where Cross and Grantham walked to the victim’s car and began slashing at them with knives. Grantham attacked Taylor on the driver’s side, and Cross knifed Jackson in the front passenger seat, according to testimony.

Sisters Shameka and Sheron Yates, and their friend, Sharenna Gonzalez, who were all at the bar at the same time as the men, witnessed the attack.

Jackson was pronounced dead at City Hospital, while Taylor was hospitalized.

The defendants were represented by court-appointed lawyers, Christopher Prezioso for Cross, and Craig Manford for Grantham.

The jury can find one or both defendants guilty of first- or second degree murder, plus attempted murder, malicious assault and conspiracy.

First-degree murder means life without parole unless the jury recommends mercy. In that case, parole can be granted after 15 years, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said.

“This was a senseless, brutal crime,” Games-Neely said in her closing arguments.

Cross and Grantham jumped out of their car and attacked Taylor and Jackson with knives, she said.

The defendants ran back to their car and sped away, nearly running over Jackson, who was out of the car and on the ground.

“He died on the side of the road for no reason,” Games-Neely said.

Cross and Grantham “acted in concert to the detriment of two young men. They had a moment in time to think about what they were doing,” she said, explaining the premeditation requirement for first-degree murder.

“They were working together; find them both guilty across the board,” Games-Neely said.

Prezioso and Manford called no witnesses, instead trying to convince the jury that the prosecution failed to meet the standard for reasonable doubt.

Prezioso said the prosecution “failed to prove a case for first-degree murder.”

“A better charge for Cross would be involuntary manslaughter. It’s closer to reason since investigators found no weapons or had any fingerprints,” he said.

“I’ve admitted that I’m grasping at straws here,” Manford told the jury. “I’m raising a lot of questions that I don’t have answers for. It comes down to did he (Grantham) get out of that car and commit this crime? Was he there? Did he do it?”

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