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Jurors urged to acquit N.Y. man in dorm killing

Defense blames key witness

Jabrai Jordan Copney entered the courtroom yesterday. Jabrai Jordan Copney entered the courtroom yesterday. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Pool)
By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / April 21, 2011

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WOBURN — Arguing that the prosecution’s case relied on the cartoon physics of Wile E. Coyote, a defense attorney urged jurors yesterday to acquit a New York man in a 2009 slaying at a Harvard residence hall.

Delivering his closing argument in Jabrai Jordan Copney’s first-degree murder trial, attorney John Amabile told a Middlesex Superior Court jury that Copney is wrongly accused of shooting Justin Cosby of Cambridge, who was on campus May 18, 2009, to complete a marijuana sale.

“It’s very hard to prove an innocent person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ Amabile said. “He is totally innocent. That’s the explanation for their failure of proof.’’

Daniel Bennett, an assistant Middlesex district attorney, said Copney was the mastermind of a plot to rob Cosby that proved fatal.

“Jabrai Copney took away everything that Justin Cosby was,’’ Bennett told the jury. “And Jabrai Copney, through his decision, took away everything Justin Cosby might have been.’’

But Amabile asserted that the true killer was the prosecution’s star witness, Blayn Jiggetts, who admitted bringing a 9mm handgun to the Kirkland House dorm but testified that Copney pulled the trigger.

Amabile mentioned the cartoon coyote as he led the jury through an account of the ballistics evidence discovered in a Kirkland House stairwell after Cosby was shot.

He said bullets and shell casings found at the scene indicated that the person who shot Cosby fired downward. The medical examiner also testified that the bullet that killed Cosby entered his left side and traveled downward, indicating the shooter was standing above him, Amabile said.

But Jiggetts testified that Copney shot at Cosby from the foot of the stairs, as Cosby ran out of the basement, Amabile said.

“Wile E. Coyote, when he fires a gun or shoots a missile at the Road Runner, the bullet goes flying up and down stairs and around the corner,’’ Amabile said.

“If you are going to believe Blayn ‘Bliz’ Jiggetts, you have to believe that the shot that killed Mr. Cosby went over his shoulder, turned a circle, and then came back downward the other way. . . . It’s like something out of a Road Runner cartoon,’’ he said.

During his hourlong summation, Amabile called Jiggetts “a bully, a murderous bully from New York City.’’

Amabile also told jurors there was no evidence that Copney had planned in advance to rob Cosby. He asserted that the only mistake Copney made was inviting Jiggetts and a third man, Jason Aquino to buy marijuana from Cosby.

Bennett, the prosecutor, agreed with some of the points made by Amabile. Jiggetts, he said, was indeed a “murderer,’’ as was Aquino, because they had joined with Copney in the alleged plan to rob Cosby at gunpoint.

Drug dealers make for perfect victims because they are unlikely to report the crime, Bennett said. At the same time, he said, a fatal shooting between criminals leaves law enforcement with limited options when they seek to solve the case. “It’s not a victimless crime, but it is a witnessless crime,’’ he said.

That’s why prosecutors cut a deal with Jiggetts, he said. Jurors needed to hear from someone who was inside Kirkland House when Cosby was killed, he said.

“Someone needs to testify about that entryway or you are faced with the fantasies’’ made up by defense lawyers, Bennett told jurors.

Bennett did not rebut Amabile’s account of who fired the fatal shot in great detail. Instead, he repeatedly told jurors that Copney was guilty of first-degree murder even if he did not pull the trigger.

Copney, he said, was the mastermind of what was planned as a robbery all along. It was not, Bennett said, a drug deal gone awry.

According to Jiggetts, Cosby was shot after he balked at being robbed of drugs and $980 in cash and tried pushing his way out of the residence hall.

“Justin Cosby made a mistake,’’ Bennett said. “He valued that marijuana more than he valued his own life.’’

Jurors deliberated for three hours yesterday and will resume today.

John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.