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Expert, lawyers put focus on gunshot residue

Homicide suspect Byron Vinson showed traces, says expert who raised doubts.

WILKES-BARRE – Homicide suspect Byron Vinson had residue from a gunshot on his hand and shirt, an expert testified Thursday.

But that doesn’t guarantee that Vinson fired a gun, said Elana Foster, the expert.

That means he fired a gun, was near a fired gun, or came into contact with something that had residue on it, according to Foster, of the R.J. Lee Group.

Vinson’s attorney argued the amounts were too minimal for him to have fired the five or six shots that killed Wayman Higgins and injured Tawanda Maddox in June outside the White House Café.

Vinson had only three tiny specks of residue on his right hand, none on his left hand or pants and some on his shirt.

Had Vinson fired the five or six shots, he would have had loads of residue on his hands and clothes, his attorney Demetrius Fannick argued.

Two other patrons at the bar backed up that theory.

Triskelion Rice and Raamel Wigfell said they saw Vinson when the shots were fired. It was not Vinson who was shooting, they said.

Vinson denied it, too. He told the jury he was fist-fighting a man when a shot was fired from behind him.

He ran, then more shots came, Vinson testified.

“I did not shoot anyone that night,” he told the jury.

Today, that jury will decide whom to believe.

Fannick and assistant district attorneys William Finnegan and Frank McCabe finished presenting their cases Thursday.

Prosecutors might call a rebuttal witness this morning before the parties give their closing arguments and Court of Common Pleas Judge Hugh Mundy sends the jury to deliberate.

Thursday’s developments came in the third day of trial for Vinson, 27, of Philadelphia.

Prosecutors have relied, in part, on the gunshot residue and eyewitness Adam Michalski in trying to show the jury Vinson is guilty of homicide and aggravated assault.

Michalski identified Vinson as the shooter within 15 minutes of the shooting after police stopped Vinson on a nearby street.

But Fannick has been trying to poke holes in the case, raising questions about the validity of Michalski’s identification and urging the jury to believe the evidence shows someone else fired the shots.

On Thursday, Fannick focused his attack on the gunshot residue.

He argued how someone firing several shots would have more residue on their hands and clothes, rather than a few particles. Small amounts of gunshot residue can also transfer onto someone who didn’t even fire a gun, he argued.

Foster agreed. But she also said sweating and the wiping of hands would diminish the amount of residue found on someone.

And Finnegan argued more particles associated with gunshot residue were found on Vinson’s clothes, but could not be positively identified as gunshot residue.

“They could have come from a gunshot or something else,” Foster said.

The shots were fired after a brawl inside the bar spilled onto the street. There, Vinson told the jury, he was fighting Kenneth White when the first shot was fired.

It came from behind Vinson, in “that blind spot behind your head,” he said.

“Did you shoot Tawanda Maddox?” Fannick asked.

“No, I did not shoot Tawanda Maddox,” Vinson replied.

“And did you shoot Wayman Higgins?” Fannick asked.

“No, I didn’t,” he said.

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