GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids man is on trial for what prosecutors say is his second murder.
Cameron Wright, 27, is accused of shooting and killing Curtis Swift early last year. Prosecutors say Swift was an eyewitness to the 2013 murder of Andre Davis, which Wright was convicted of last fall.
The trial was supposed to get underway last week but a mistrial was declared after an assistant prosecutor’s error resulted in the last of three potential black jurors being dismissed during jury selection.
A new jury was selected this week, but it still doesn’t include any black people. All of the jurors appear to be white.
Prosecution and defense attorneys told 24 Hour News 8 that the few black people among the potential jurors were removed for legal reasons. None of them were eliminated using the prosecutor’s discretionary peremptory challenges, the type of dismissal involved in last week’s mistrial.
The jury heard opening statements Tuesday, during which the prosecution laid out its case.
Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki said she would prove that Wright killed Swift in a failed effort to save his own skin.
Prosecutors say that when a cold case team reopened the Davis murder in January 2018, witnesses started being called in and word got back to Wright. Koncki said he began contacting potential witnesses, but allegiances had clearly faded over the years: Those who once covered for him were no longer willing to do so.
Prosecutors used investigative subpoenas to compel reluctant witnesses to testify under the threat of a perjury charge. Authorities say Swift, one of three eyewitnesses to Davis’ murder, told Wright he wasn’t going to lie for him.
Shortly thereafter, Swift’s body was found. He had been shot to death.
“I’m going to ask you to come back and enter a verdict based on the evidence in the case,” Koncki told jurors as she concluded her opening statement. “And that’s guilty.”
Wright’s defense attorney pushed back, saying the prosecution’s case has holes in it that should cause jurors to return a verdict of not guilty.
Defense attorney Justin McCarthy said there is no physical evidence linking Wright to the Swift crime scene, no murder weapon, and witnesses who may be testifying for their own benefit.
“It is entirely lacking,” McCarthy said of the case. “You have no forensic evidence that puts my client in that house.”
Prosecutors called to the stand one of Wright’s friends who admitted the suspect contacted him to talk about the case once the cold case team started digging into it. The friend said Wright wanted him to lie for him and provide an alibi. The friend refused.
At times, the friend’s testimony resulted in heated exchanges between he and the prosecutor as he seemed reluctant to answer questions, said he couldn’t recall key details and was otherwise evasive when it came to specifics.
Prosecutors said other eyewitnesses to the Davis murder will be called to testify as the case moves forward. Koncki said she will also call a witness to the stand who will testify that he saw Wright at the scene of the murder on the day prosecutors say Swift was killed.
Testimony is expected to continue well into next week.
Wright did not testify in his own defense at his last trial, his attorneys said. They would not comment on whether he will take the stand in this case.