Homicide Co-Defendants Request Trial Severance

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On March 29, homicide co-defendants filed a motion for severance before DC Superior Court Judge Maribeth Raffinan. 

Rafael Stevens, 39, and Jermall Johnson, 40, are charged with premeditated first-degree murder while armed, attempted robbery – felony murder, five counts of possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm, among other charges, for their alleged involvement in the shooting death of 50-year-old Aniekobo Umoh on Dec. 29, 2022, on the 2700 block of 7th Street, NE. 

Johnson’s defense attorney, Stephen LoGerfo, told the court that he filed a motion to sever his client’s case from Stevens’, to be able to use him as a witness in Johnson’s case. He argued that his testimony would be a crucial component to their arguments.  

The prosecution argued against the motion to sever, stating that conducting a second trial would put a strain on the “judicial economy” and that it would be difficult to call the same witnesses twice for separate trials.

The prosecution argued that the circumstances of the crime weighed against severance as the evidence is not appropriately exculpatory. 

The prosecution alleged that a video captures the two defendants seeing Umoh, leaving the scene, and returning with a firearm, which they claimed to be premeditated first-degree murder.

However, LoGerfo insisted that the evidence was “exculpatory” as it would suggest that there was no premeditation involved. 

The prosecution reiterated that the testimony would not be exculpatory, as the video allegedly captures the defendants planning to commit the crime and then following through. The defense stated that the video does not show the whole picture in relation to other activities, such as communication between the defendants, that were not caught on camera.

The prosecution told the defense that if the defendants were kept together, they would drop the felony-murder addendum connected to the attempted robbery charge. The judge postponed a ruling on the matter, pending further information related to the motion to sever. 

The parties are expected to return to court on April 9. 

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