Man admits guilt in shooting

November 27, 2012

Since his arrest Dec. 19, EL-Hajj Malik Turner had denied shooting another man at an East Washington basketball court.

Turner finally changed his story Tuesday, just moments before his second trial on charges stemming from the shooting was to begin before Washington County Judge John DiSalle.

Turner, 19, of Washington, admitted he was the one who shot Marti Brown, 23, also of Washington, after the two met to settle an argument at the basketball court on Forrest Avenue.

In exchange for his plea to aggravated assault, Turner was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 8 years in prison. A charge of attempted homicide was dismissed.

Turner had always admitted to carrying a gun when he met up with Brown but said he didn’t fire the shots that struck Brown in the arm and leg.

A jury was chosen Monday to hear testimony in Brown’s retrial. Brown’s first trial last month ended in a deadlock and mistrial after DiSalle intervened in what was described as a “heated argument” between certain jurors during deliberations. The jury could not reach a unanimous decision because of one juror, the judge explained.

Prosecutors vowed to retry Turner on the charges, although Brown was held in contempt of court after he refused to testify at trial for fear of retaliation. Brown, however, was slated to testify at the retrial.

On Monday, prior to jury selection, Turner appeared before DiSalle asking that Assistant Public Defender Tom Cooke be removed from his case because of conflicts of interest. Cooke had represented Turner since his arrest.

When asked by DiSalle to pinpoint the conflicts, Turner said, “He just doesn’t do anything for me. He won’t file anything. He won’t come see me.

“And, he tried to get my girlfriend to testify against me,” Turner added.

Cooke denied Turner’s allegations and told the judge he did everything he could to defend Turner, who insisted on going to trial and had turned down previous plea offers.

DiSalle denied Turner’s request then and again Tuesday morning when Turner and his girlfriend, Gracie Mitchell, approached the judge about Cooke.

Shortly afterward, Turner agreed to the plea offer, after conferring with several friends who were on hand for the trial.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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