ITHACA, N.Y. — A New York appellate court is granting a man a new trial after taking issue with the county’s handling of an important witness in the case.
Corbin Whyte was accused of shooting 47-year-old Paul Garcia at an apartment complex in 2010. He was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder,first degree robbery and tampering with physical evidence. After two mistrials though, he was eventually only convicted of felony tampering with physical evidence after a third trial and sentenced to two to four years in prison.
His conviction, though, was based largely on the uncorroborated testimony of a woman named Zsatia Perkins. Perkins said she picked up Whyte from a location the night of the robbery where a jacket linked to the crime was later found. She also said she disposed of a pair of boots at Whyte’s request that authorities believe may have been linked to the crime. She was arrested and charged with felony tampering with physical evidence the same day as Whyte.
However, she cut a deal with the prosecution in exchange for being charged with a misdemeanor crime instead.
The appellate document states, “…Perkins had pleaded guilty to “obstructing governmental administration . . . in exchange for not being prosecuted for tampering.”‘
Then, the jury should have been informed before deliberation that Perkins’ testimony could not stand independently because she was an accomplice in the crime. It had to be verified by other evidence. But those instructions were not given to jurors.
“Thus, County Court erred in failing to instruct the jury that Perkins was an accomplice as a matter of law and that defendant could not be convicted on Perkins’ testimony absent corroborative evidence,” the ruling states.
A new trial was ordered for Whyte, who has already served the jail sentence for the crime.
Whyte is currently in custody at the Tompkins County Jail after Ithaca police say they found illegally owned guns and drugs in his vehicle. Whyte is facing a 15-count indictment for the March arrest, which he has pleaded not guilty to.
Correction: This story initially incorrectly reported that the jury was not aware Perkins testified in exchange for a lesser charge, linking it to the appellate decision to overturn the verdict. That was incorrect and the story has been altered to fix the error.