Security Tight At Hearing In Chester Teenager's Death

Posted: September 18, 1988

It was the tightest security anyone could remember.

Delaware County sheriff's deputies armed with metal detectors scanned each person entering the courtroom. A box on the floor outside the courtroom door was filled with pens, key rings and other metal objects that had set the detectors off. But there were no knives or handguns, as the deputies had feared.

Inside the courtroom, more than a dozen sheriff's deputies stood guard to prevent an outbreak of the kind of violence between rival Chester gangs that last summer claimed the life of a Chester High School cheerleader.

The victim, Carla Carrington, 17, was struck by a stray bullet during a shootout between rival Chester gangs on Aug. 16 and died the next day at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. She had planned to attend Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, as a freshman this fall.

On Sept. 1, five young men and three juveniles were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the shooting.

On Wednesday, the eight defendants were back in court at a hearing before Delaware County Court Judge Domenic D. Jerome to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to hold them for trial.

After 4 1/2 hours of testimony, cross-examination and repartee between the defense attorneys and the judge, Jerome ruled that seven of the defendants should be tried for first-degree murder. An eighth was set free after a prosecution witness recanted testimony she had given to county detectives implicating the man in the slaying.

All seven pleaded not guilty. They are being held in Delaware County Prison, and all will be tried as adults.

Long before the hearing was to begin, a crowd had gathered outside the courtroom, composed mostly of friends and relatives of the defendants. In a courtroom a short distance away, the family of Carla Carrington, including her mother, Yvonne, also waited.

When the crowd was allowed to enter the courtroom, there were people already seated in the rows usually reserved for spectators.

Jerome ordered that the defendants, each handcuffed with his hands behind his back, be seated in the audience so that prosecution witnesses would have to pick the defendants out of the crowd. About halfway through the hearing, sheriff's deputies took the handcuffs off and rehandcuffed the men with their hands in front of them.

Court officials said Jerome had decided on this procedure to avoid the need for eight different lineups. But the officials said the procedure made security even more difficult.

"Here you had the victim's family and friends sitting near the people accused of killing her," one sheriff's deputy said. In some cases, rival gang members, now in custody, were seated side by side.

But the procedure appeared to work. Stephen Daniels, 14, testified that he saw one of the defendants fire the first shot that led to the short gun battle that ended in Carrington's death.

Assistant District Attorney Joel Goldstein asked Daniels whether he could identify the man who fired the fatal shot. At first Daniels hesitated.

Jerome told the teenager he could stand up in the witness box and look around the courtroom. When Daniels again hesitated, he was allowed to walk among the spectators. He then identified Shawn Wootson, 18, of New Castle, Del., as the one who fired the first shot.

After the hearing, Yvonne Carrington said that "in my heart of hearts, I feel sorry for those kids (the defendants) and their families. They're all Carla's age. They look like babies."

*

Two Delaware County men, one a county probation officer, were found not guilty Thursday of open lewdness after a nonjury trial before Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Clememt J. McGovern Jr.

Robert Giammarco, 38, of the first block of South Sixth Street, Darby, and Michael Coin, 29, of the 300 block of Collingdale Avenue, Collingdale, had been accused of engaging in sex acts in a men's room in the K mart in the Holmes section of Ridley Township in March.

Giammarco, a Delaware County probation officer and a former Glenolden police officer, had been suspended from his job pending the outcome of the trial, court officials said.

About 75 Delaware County residents, including seven children, will be sworn in as citizens at naturalization ceremonies in the county courthouse at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28.

The new citizens come from more than a dozen countries, including Greece, Kampuchea, Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.

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