Courtroom melee after murder verdict

by | Mar 27, 2014 | Press, Updates

defendant Tyrell Smith tries to bolt, 3 arrested, say sources

Article from by Frank Donnelly/Staten Island Advance 


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A melee erupted Thursday in a St. George courtroom after a murder verdict was announced, when audience members pushed toward the front of the court and the defendant tried to bolt.

Chaos broke out in Justice Robert J. Collini’s courtroom after Tyrell Smith, 27, of Brooklyn, was convicted of second-degree murder in the Sept. 9, 2012 shooting death of Daequan Wilson, 20, in West Brighton.

The outburst prompted a large police response, with patrol cars and police vans flying down Stuyvesant Place.

“It was a crazy, violent, intense scene caused by the actions of the defendant and his family members in the gallery,” said a law enforcement source.

Sources said a woman in the gallery said something after the verdict was read, then stood up and refused to sit down or leave the courtroom.

As Supreme Court officers approached her, other audience members stood up and moved toward the railing separating the gallery from the defense and prosecution tables.

When court officers rushed to quell the crowd, Smith jumped up from the defense table and dashed toward the railing, said sources. Court officers immediately subdued him.

Smith continued to resist, prompting members of District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s NYPD detective squad and Correction officers, who were in the courtroom, to aid in handcuffing him.

Court officers arrested three people and prevented the situation from spiraling out of control. 

Those arrested were Smith’s sister, brother and girlfriend, said a law enforcement source. Their names were not immediately available.

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, said a court officer and a sergeant were taken to the hospital with apparently non-serious injuries.

A law enforcement said a police detective also was hurt.

“This is a reminder that they’re highly trained, and when something goes wrong they are there to keep everyone safe in the courtroom and to act quickly and professionally, and that’s exactly what they did,” Bookstaver said.

Smith was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal weapon possession.

He faces up to 25 years to life behind bars when sentenced on April 25. 

As law enforcement sources tell it, the slaying was set in motion when Wilson asked Smith and his friends to help him settle a score with another group of men. But when the time came, Wilson bailed out, leaving Smith and his buddies to deal with the problem themselves.

It turned out they were able to settle the dispute without gunfire or violence, law enforcement sources said, but Wilson’s early departure didn’t sit well with Smith.

That night, he went to West Brighton and shot Wilson four times – in the chest, back, hand and forearm –  outside 177 Campbell Ave., said authorities.

Police picked up Smith five weeks later on Oct. 15, 2012, when he showed up at a parole appointment.

Public records show Smith was released to parole in July 2011 after serving a seven-year sentence for an attempted-robbery conviction in Manhattan. 

Smith’s lawyer, Mark Pollard, said the defendant will appeal.

“I feel Mr. Smith was innocent. I think he was convicted because of his gang affiliation with the Bloods,” said Pollard. “There was not any credible evidence to support the conviction.”

Donovan, the D.A. disagreed.  

“Tyrell Smith is a stone-cold killer who was convicted of murder and weapons possession for callously shooting his victim four times as he cowered defenseless on the ground,” said Donovan in a statement. “I want to commend my prosecutors for securing this verdict and the jury for their service during this three-week trial. 

“I [also] want to thank the court officers, the Correction officers and the members of my detective squad for working together to protect my staff and the victim’s family, and restore order to the courtroom.” 

— Staff writer Tom Wrobleski contributed to this report.