Trial in 2012 Piazza at Schmidts killing opens

Posted: October 24, 2013

From prelude to postmortem, the shooting of Maurice Kimble may be one of the most witnessed homicides in recent years.

It was a warm late-spring Sunday night last year, two groups of young people were drinking outside a bar at the Piazza at Schmidts complex in Northern Liberties, cellphone cameras flashing and Instagram photos flying through cyberspace.

"We just don't have two or three witnesses," Assistant District Attorney Richard Sax told a Common Pleas Court jury Tuesday. "We have three groups of witnesses."

All of them, Sax told the jury in his opening statement, identified Steven Miller - the tall man in the striking pink-and-gray shirt - as the one who shot and killed Kimble after they argued over a woman.

"This is not a whodunit," said defense attorney Samuel C. Stretton in his opening statement to the jury of seven women and five men.

Stretton conceded that Miller, 24, shot and killed Kimble, also 24, early June 11, 2012. Stretton, however, said Miller feared for his life and shot in self-defense.

Stretton said the background to Kimble's shooting began in 2009, when Miller was confronted by several people he did not know in his Northeast neighborhood and shot seven times "for no reason."

"It's a miracle that he's alive and the people who did that have never been caught," Stretton said. "He was shot, and he's lived in terror ever since."

That was on Miller's mind when he and Kimble wound up in a struggle in the Piazza, his lawyer said.

Sax said Kimble and three friends and Miller and two "scantily clad femmes fatales" (one wore a backless sweater and what one witness called "booty shorts") were seated at tables about eight feet apart outside the PYT bar in the Piazza.

Both groups had been drinking earlier and at PYT without incident. But after midnight one of Miller's friends went to a unisex restroom, and Kimble followed. He tried to strike up a relationship with the woman, but she rebuffed him. She left, and Kimble followed. The woman complained to Miller, and he turned his attention to Kimble.

"That's when the war of words began," Sax said, which ended when Miller shot Kimble in the groin and chest.

Although Sax maintained that Kimble was not armed, Stretton said Miller would testify that he shot after Kimble reached for a weapon.

Miller fled Philadelphia and was arrested in late June in Houston.


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

www.inquirer.com/crimeandpunishment

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