Suspect description remains a key issue as Liberty Street murder case nears end
A key issue in the July 2018 murder of Raymond L. Morgan — and a crucial piece of evidence that could connect the perpetrator to the 111 Liberty St., Batavia, crime scene — is the description of the man who jumped out Morgan’s window after the bludgeoning attack.
This pivotal detail caused defense attorney Frederick Rarick to motion for a trial dismissal for his client, Richard D. Hanes, three times yesterday. Rarick argued that without DNA evidence, finger or palm prints or identification of Hanes at the scene, the case is “all speculative as to who that subject is.”
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman responded that eyewitness accounts of Hanes are not needed to overcome the prosecution’s burden of proof. Judge Charles Zambito denied all three of Rarick's motions because “the People have established each and every element of the offense,” so the jury should be able to reach a verdict on Hanes's second-degree murder charge.
Detective Sgt. Kevin Czora, the last witness called by the prosecution, questioned inconsistencies about the gray sweatpants and green shirt — similar to those of the unidentified suspect — found in Hanes’s bedroom closet at his former 5 Thorpe St., Batavia, house.
The clothing items recovered from Hanes’s closet did not match either the descriptions given by witnesses or the clothing items shown in surveillance video footage from Southside Deli, Marchese Computer Products and a Goade Park residence.
The videos also captured a man who appeared to be Hanes biking from Liberty Street to Ellicott Street at 11:13 p.m., moments before Batavia PD received a 9-1-1 call to the scene at 11:14 p.m. Czora testified to the possibility that Hanes arrived at 111 Liberty St. unnoticed by making a U-turn on Goade Park and cutting behind the house.
Rarick called witnesses Michael Elmore, Danielle Case and Bonnie Cortright to attest to their recollections of the man who fled the scene. Elmore said his statement to police was mistakenly based on the premise that the individual who jumped out the window was Morgan.
“I gave [Batavia PD] a description that resembled Ray Morgan,” Case also told jurors.
Rebuttal testimony from detectives Matthew Wojtaszczyk and Thad Mart offered evidence against Case and Cortright. The detectives said the suspect was bald and wore sandals despite the women’s claims that the individual had short dark hair and wore sneakers.
The jury must sort through these contradictory descriptions starting today in Genesee County Court. Jurors will hear closing arguments and elements of the second-degree murder charge before entering verdict deliberations. Hanes can be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.