Wilhite Murder Re-Trial Commences With Opening Statements By Prosecution, Defense
Opening statements were presented today [Tuesday] in the murder re-trial of Charles Wilhite. He is the Springfield man who was originally convicted a little over two years ago of shooting a man to death. But Wilhite was granted a new trial after a prominent prosecution witness recanted his testimony. After they were officially sworn in, the jury was taken on a tour of the scene of the alleged shooting that occurred on October14th, 2008 where 28 year-old Alberto Rodriguez was killed. In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Blake Rubin said the shooting was prompted by what he called bad blood between Rodriguez and Angel Hernandez, the owner of Pine Street Market, the convenience store in front of which the shooting took place. Rubin says witnesses will testify Hernandez paid Charles Wilhite to kill the victim.
“The theory of the murder, Ladies and Gentlemen, from the Commonwealth is what we call a joint venture. The theory, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that both Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Wilhite together killed Alberto Rodriguez.”
Hernandez, like Wilhite, was found guilty of first degree murder in the original trial, and is serving a life sentence without a chance of parole. In his opening arguments, defense attorney Bill O'Neill said evidence would show there were no issues between his client, Wilhite, and the victim, or that they even knew each other. And O'Neill urged the jury to closely examine often conflicting witness testimony.
“You are likely to hear from a number of witnesses who will probably tell you a different story than what they've said in the past. And you may hear different versions of the incident from these different witnesses.”
Among those expected to testify in Wilhite's re-trial is a witness who recanted the testimony he gave in the original trial, claiming he had been coerced by police into identifying Wilhite as the gunman.