Judge orders spectators carded at murder trial

KALAMAZOO (AP) - A judge presiding over a murder trial in the slaying of a 13-year-old Kalamazoo boy has barred spectators under age 19 from the courtroom.

To enforce Judge Alexander Lipsey's order, sheriff's deputies asked for identification from anyone who entered the courtroom as testimony began last Wednesday, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

Lipsey said he put the age restriction in place after he and other court officials learned that area middle school and high school students had a high interest in the case. Lipsey said he has instated an age restriction only one other time in his seven years on the bench.

"I think it's important for them to understand that this is not a social event," Lipsey said. "It's not a circus. ... This is a serious event and their education should be their priority."

Twenty-four-year-old Octavius Snell, 18-year-old Rashad Perez and 16-year-old Victor Garay are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and felony use of a firearm in the May shooting death of Michael Day in the city's Edison neighborhood.

The trial in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court is expected to last about three weeks. Each defendant has a separate jury.

According to prosecutors, shots were fired after day of arguments and fights between rival neighborhood gangs. Garay's lawyer, Scott Wagenaar, told the jury during his opening statement that the prosecution's case was "full of holes."

"It's a tragedy, it's tough," Wagenaar said. We simply do not know what happened that day."

Defense lawyers Andis Svikis, who represents Perez, and Donald Sappanos, who represents Snell, also are expected to argue for acquittal.

In addition to the age restriction, Lipsey said only three to four members of Michael's family and the families of the defendants are being allowed in the courtroom at a time. That restriction is due in part to fire code standards for the courtroom, which has capacity of about 100.

Published: Mon, Oct 13, 2014