ITHACA, N.Y. — People’s familiarity with the August homicide at Cornell University and knowledge of the video app Snapchat took center stage during the first day of jury selection Thursday.
Nagee Green, 23, faces multiple felony charges after he was accused of fatally stabbing Ithaca College student Anthony Nazaire in the chest and stabbing another man, Raheim Williams, three times in his back. He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, and second-degree assault in November.
District Attorney Matthew Van Houten, who will be prosecuting the trial along with Assistant District Attorney Eliza Filipowski, addressed the first group of potential jurors with concern that media coverage of the case may have an impact on the jurors’ biases. When Van Houten asked how many people had heard about the case, nearly everyone raised their hand.
“You’ve seen it in the news, you’ve read about it,” Van Houten said. “What you’ve heard in the media is not proof – it’s very important that we agree that we are starting with a blank slate.”
Multiple jurors responded to this saying it would be difficult for them to separate their personal biases with the evidence presented by the attorneys.
“I’m troubled by these answers,” Judge John C. Rowley said in response to this. “You’ve all read the paper, but you haven’t seen any evidence – I think you are all capable of coming to a conclusion based on evidence.”
Van Houten asked several jurors about their familiarity with the app Snapchat, suggesting that part of the evidence in the case were Snapchat videos.At the time of the homicide, police asked the public multiple times for videos or photos from the street brawl that broke out Aug. 28 near Ho Plaza.
He also asked several potential jurors to identify their personal definitions of intent and credibility.
Attorney Joseph Joch, one of the multiple attorney’s representing Green, followed Van Houten’s opening questions, positioning himself as a force to be reckoned with.
“I want you to know who you’re dealing with – I’ve been around for awhile,” he said. “I will be cross-examining police officers in this trial… perhaps aggressively.”
Joch identified New York State Police Senior Investigator Rick Haas as a key witness in the trial. Joch continued to argue that the statements extracted by Green following the stabbing were not reliable and did not show criminal intent, suggesting that Haas was, “the one who interrogated the witness with an unreliable technique.”
Joch and fellow defense attorney Michael Perehinec filed documents in January which argued that Green’s arrest and detention were not based upon probable cause. Additionally, the attorney’s argued that Green’s confession should be disregarded due to the “psychological mind games” investigators used during the interrogation to encourage a confession from him.
“Can you imagine a person, a 23-year-old, who has just been arrested for murder, being detained in a windowless room with three investigators telling him that they have countless ways of identifying him?” Joch asked the jurors. “Can you put yourself in that person’s shoes and try and understand his reactions?”
Jury selection will continue into Friday at 9 a.m. at Tompkins County Court.