ITHACA, N.Y. — During closing arguments in an Ithaca shooting trial Thursday, a defense attorney argued that the Ithaca Police Department was led to make false assumptions, fueled by the lies of a jealous ex-boyfriend.
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James “Pip” Marshall is on trial for allegedly shooting Earl Brooks during an argument about a woman on June 27 at the West Village Apartments.
He’s charged with first-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
During Marshall’s testimony Thursday and Wednesday, he told a vastly different narrative than Brooks did in his testimony Tuesday and Wednesday.
The two stories
Marshall was at a woman’s apartment the morning of the incident when her Earl Brooks showed up wanting to go inside.
There is some debate about whether Brooks and the woman were still in a relationship with each other — Brooks said he was.
The woman denied Brooks entry to the apartment hoping to prevent a confrontation between the two men. Brooks then paced around outside her apartment — at one point allegedly trying to break into the home through a window — for nearly two hours.
In response to Brook’s behavior, Marshall called two men — on them was his brother — to go to the apartment, allegedly so he could walk out the door without having a dangerous confrontation with Brooks.
At some point, the woman opens the door to speak to Brooks and the two men end up face-to-face, according to surveillance video shown in court.
Brooks then throws a punch at Marshall and tackles him through the door frame of the apartment — this is where the stories greatly differ.
Brooks testified that he only attacked Marshall because he saw the man reach for his waistline.
“I believed it was a gun,” Brooks said during testimony.
He says that he tackled Marshall, was shot in the leg and did his best to hold Marshall down because the man had a gun. At some point, Brooks’ strength buckled from the pain of his injury and he rolled off Marshall.
“I knew I was hit, but I didn’t know where,” Brooks said.
The version of the story Marshall told is that Brooks lunged at him while holding a gun, but says he was able to swat the gun in Brooks’ hand downward and the man shot himself in the leg. The gun, Marshall said, then fell to the floor and was likely kicked into the kitchen where the men fought over it before Brooks rolled off of him.
“I was afraid,” Marshall said. “This dude’s trying to kill me.”
Marshall says he then pointed the gun at Brooks and told him, “You shot yourself for what? You shot yourself for a girl who doesn’t even want you.”
Marshall says he then threw the gun into the living room and ran out of the apartment where his brother and another man were waiting for him.
He says he did not know police were looking for him in connection with the shooting. He was found at a relative’s home in Brooklyn on Sept. 3 and taken into police custody by U.S. Marshals.
Defense: “All of this lying started with Earl Brooks”
Attorney James Liefer said his client is on trial because police were fooled into believing the story of a man who was lying to them to get back at Marshall for being with his ex-girlfriend.
Liefer said, “The Ithaca Police Department assumed this case was open and shut.”
He said police did not stop to imagine that Brooks could have shot himself and instead zeroed in on the most obvious suspect.
“They assumed that Mr. Marshall shot Mr. Brooks,” Liefer said.
He said that in that assumption they failed to realize that Brooks was drunk at the scene or question why he spent nearly two hours pacing outside the woman’s apartment.
Police, he said, also did not try to determine if one of the two men Marshall called to the scene were responsible for the shooting or had a gun.
“Mr. Marshall is innocent,” Liefer said. “All of this lying started with Earl Brooks.”
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