Defense attorney grills Durham homicide detective

Apr. 29, 2014 @ 06:01 PM

A defense attorney tried to cast doubt Tuesday on the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness in the carjacking and shooting death of an 83-year-old grandfather.

Leryan Scarlett told a Durham County Superior Court jury Monday that he and defendant Robert Earl Wilkerson were involved in the April 7, 2010 slaying of George Junior Pratt.

Scarlett, who struck a plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office for his testimony, said Wilkerson was the gunman. Pratt, who was shot in both legs in his car on Franklin Street, died two months later.

Public defender Matt Cook questioned Durham homicide investigator Anne Cristaldi extensively about how police handled the case. He asked her about a cell phone that was found at the crime scene, which Scarlett testified belonged to Wilkerson.

Cristaldi said the phone’s owner was identified as Raymond Wright. She said she doesn’t know who he is, and never could find him.

Cook suggested that detectives failed to make a diligent effort to track him down.

In other testimony, Cristaldi said she had shown a police-lineup photo of eight people, including Wilkerson, to Pete Tatum, an eyewitness to the shooting, and that Tatum did not identify Wilkerson as the gunman.

The detective also testified that Scarlett gave clashing accounts of the shooting when police interviewed him in 2010 and again in 2012 after he was offered a plea deal.

For his testimony, Scarlett is expected to draw a lighter sentence.

Also charged in the case is Wilkerson’s then-girlfriend, Sharell Roberson. She faces charges of felony accessory after the fact and filing a false police report. Her trial is pending.