Defense in murder trial: Defendant's 'good character'

Posted: January 23, 2014

Anthony Alexander was an immigrant success story.

A native of the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Alexander came to the United States in 1995 at age 44. He built his own auto-repair business in West Philadelphia, met a local woman, and had a son.

His reputation as a hardworking, honest, law-abiding man was pristine - right up until he shotgunned his ex-girlfriend in front of her family.

The question facing Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson is whether the 62-year-old Alexander's reputation alone is so sterling that it negates any criminal intent in the Feb. 26, 2013, killing of 37-year-old Jennifer Fitzpatrick.

That's the unusual defense outlined Tuesday by Andrea Konow, Alexander's lawyer.

"We think the evidence of his good character . . . will convince you there was no specific intent to murder in this case and that you'll find him not guilty of first-degree murder," Konow told Bronson in her opening statement in the nonjury trial.

Defense lawyers often present evidence of good character to convince a judge or jury that their client is not guilty. A judge, instructing a jury before deliberations, will explain that character evidence alone is enough to acquit.

Still, it's not common for the defense to say up front that its entire case is based solely on character evidence.

Assistant District Attorney Lorraine Donnelly told Bronson there was evidence of Alexander's criminal intent.

The night before the killing, Donnelly said, Fitzpatrick got a protection-from-abuse order, and police had handed the order to Alexander and explained its significance.

Nevertheless, at 8 the next morning Alexander arrived at the Fitzpatrick family's house in the 500 block of South Yewdall Street in a black Mercedes-Benz belonging to one of his customers.

"That way, no one would recognize him," Donnelly said.

Donnelly called what followed "awful and horrendous."

Armed with a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, Donnelly said, Alexander got out of the Mercedes and waved his shotgun as Fitzpatrick, who had just returned home from driving two of her children to school and was parking nearby, on Cedar Avenue near 54th Street. When Fitzpatrick spotted Alexander, she bolted across Cedar.

Donnelly said Alexander fired several times at Fitzpatrick and chased her back to her house. There, the prosecutor continued, Alexander menaced Fitzpatrick's 70-year-old father with the shotgun before shooting her in the heart at point-blank range.

Fitzpatrick's 17-year-old daughter and Alexander's son, 4, saw their mother's death.

Afterward, Alexander drove back to his garage at 47th and Brown Streets, where police found him.

Donnelly said Alexander "came out with his hands up. The defendant told police, 'She was on welfare. What would you do?' "

Testimony continues Wednesday.

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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