Prosecutors say that momentary Sept. 24, 2000, encounter was the first link between Hakeem Bey, an alleged member of a violent local drug gang, and that night's shooting death of Moses Williams.
That whispered name - Hakeem Bey - was already known to him, Watson said, and was enough for him to let his mysterious tipster pass without acknowledgment.
"Why didn't you stop her?" asked Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega.
"I didn't want to put her in jeopardy," said Watson.
Watson's testimony during the first day of Bey's murder trial touched on the fear and intimidation on the street, which Vega said is why Bey is only now on trial for Williams' death eight years ago.
"You're going to see why people are not happy to be here," Vega told the jurors in his opening statement, referring to prosecution witnesses who will say Bey, 26, fired the shots that killed Williams, 23, as Williams rode in a car filled with people celebrating a friend's rap record contract.
Two alleged witnesses to Williams' murder who identified Bey have been killed. The most recent, Chante Wright, 23, was gunned down with a friend on Jan. 19, seven hours after she sneaked into Philadelphia from witness protection to visit her ill grandmother.
Despite her death, Wright's words will be heard when Vega reads to a jury transcripts of her statement to police as well as her testimony in a preliminary hearing and before the grand jury.
Bey, who spelled his first name Hakeem in court yesterday, contradicting all public records in the case, sat placidly as the trial that could put him on death row began to unfold.
Defense attorney Joseph Santaguida told the jurors in his opening that no evidence would link Bey to the crime "beyond a reasonable doubt." He said there was "no blood, no DNA, no fingerprints and no gun."
Santaguida called the prosecution's case "baloney" and urged the jurors to keep an open mind: "Murder is a tragedy . . . but you can't compound that tragedy by finding someone guilty who is not guilty."
Vega told the jury that on Sept. 24, 2000, Williams and Wright were in an Oldsmobile Cutlass station wagon, part of a group out celebrating a recording contract for Duane Clinkscales, a friend who performed as "DeNiro."
As the car went along the 2200 block of Cross Street, a block north of Tasker Street in South Philadelphia, Vega said, a man in a hooded sweatshirt approached and began firing into the front passenger-side door, according to witnesses.
Williams, riding up front, was hit and mortally wounded. Driver Brencis Drew sustained bullet wounds to both legs but managed to drive the car to the emergency room at St. Agnes Medical Center at Broad and Mifflin Streets.
Williams died in the hospital, and Drew told police he could not identify the gunman. Clinkscales was so scared, Vega said, he began wearing a bulletproof vest, and was later shot at.
Fingerprints on the Olds' rear passenger-door window led police to Wright, who identified Bey as the gunman. Wright later recanted, forcing prosecutors to withdraw charges against Bey.
But in May 2007, Wright changed her mind again, this time after federal prosecutors agreed to reduce the drug sentence of her boyfriend and put her in the federal witness protection program.
Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or firstname.lastname@example.org.