After several years of testifying that she was with the two men accused of murdering a Roxbury man, Latoya Thomas Dickson took the witness stand in Suffolk County Superior Court on Tuesday and, hours after being granted immunity from prosecution for perjury, repeated her new story that she was never there.
Dickson, 21, had testified five times in recent years that she was with the men believed to have gunned down 18-year-old honors student Cedirick Steele. But on Thursday she recanted that information.
After that change in her story, prosecutors had given Dickson immunity, hoping to get her to go back to her original testimony that she had accompanied the alleged killers. Prosecutors believe she was actually with Antwan Carter and Daniel Pinckney Jr. when they shot and killed Steele.
"There was the possibility that if she didn't return to the witness stand, that all her [previous] testimony would be thrown out,'' said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, in explaining why Dickson was given the immunity. "We were hoping that when she took the witness stand, that she would tell the truth."
But Tuesday, Dickson picked up where she left off on Thursday, testifying that she was not with the defendants. She gave mostly one-word answers to a series of questions by Assistant District Attorney Paul Treseler and the two attorneys representing the defendants.
Carter and Pinckney, both 21 and from the South End, are charged with first-degree murder. A previous trial last year, in which Dickson testified that she was with them on March 17, 2007 as they plotted and carried out the homicide, ended in a deadlock. Dickson also testified to a grand jury in 2007 that she was with the two men.
On Tuesday, Treseler asked Dickson if she remembered repeatedly giving detailed testimony placing her in Pickney's car as the two men made arrangements to retaliate against a group of gang rivals. She replied "yes."
But Pinckney's attorney, James Greenberg, asked her, "you were never in a car that day with these two defendants, were you?" She answered "no."
During last year's trial, Dickson told the jury that she overheard Carter and Pinckney, her former boyfriend, talk about retaliating against gang rivals. She said she was in a vehicle with the accused killers when Steele, an honors student at Bunker Hill Community College, was shot. Steele had been waiting at a bus stop near Centre Street and Highland Avenue in Roxbury, across from the James P. Timilty Middle School, when the bullets started flying.
Prosecutors say Steele was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pinckney and Carter were allegedly driving in the Highland Avenue area, with Dickson in the car, when they saw a group they believed to be rivals who had fired gunshots at Pinckney earlier that day.
Pinckney allegedly gave Carter a gun and instructed him to leave the car and open fire. The bullets missed the intended targets and hit Steele, who happened to be standing in the same area.
Steele was shot seven times. Dickson said she did not see Carter fire any shots, but witnessed him leave Pinckney's car wearing a green hoodie, toting a silver handgun, and wearing her black gloves. She said that minutes after he left, she heard gunfire, and then saw Carter run back to the car, throwing off the hoodie before he entered.
Dickson previously testified that Carter was agitated and nudged her with the handgun as if to get her to take the weapon. She said she refused and asked Pinckney to drop her off at her mother's house.
Dickson initially told police that she and Pinckney were at his mother's house in Webster at the time of the shooting, but after she was subpoenaed by a grand jury, she said she was in Pinckney's car with him and Carter.
After Dickson's testimony Tuesday, Treseler played six recordings of telephone conversations between Carter and several associates while he was incarcerated in the summer of 2007 on an unrelated offense. Prosecutors allege that Carter urged his associates to kill Dickson, saying "we need to make her history,'' and "if she's alive, I'm doing life."
After the case ended for the day, Steele's grandmother, Mahlia Martin, sat outside the courtroom and said, "Our family has been going through a lot, waiting for closure on all this. I think she [Dickson] has been through a lot too. She's afraid, she's young and under a lot of pressure."
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