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Conviction upheld in New Kensington shooting death

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The first-degree murder conviction of an Allegheny County man was upheld Wednesday after a Westmoreland County judge said she did not make erroneous rulings during his seven-day trial in July.

Anthony L. McWhite, 21, of Crafton, contended Judge Debra Pezze improperly allowed jurors to see two autopsy photographs and incorrectly ruled on challenges that barred the defense from questioning certain witnesses.

McWhite was convicted for the April 3, 2010, shooting death of Shawntez Weems on Constitution Boulevard in New Kensington.

The prosecution contended McWhite killed Weems as revenge for a pistol-whipping he inflicted on the defendant in 2008.

According to trial testimony, McWhite hid in the shadow of a church and waited for Weems to emerge to take a short walk for a drug sale. McWhite followed Weems and then headed him off before firing nine shots from a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol. One shot hit Weems in the back.

McWhite is serving a life prison sentence.

The defense contended that McWhite should receive a new trial because of errors Pezze made during the trial.

McWhite's lawyers argued the autopsy photographs were prejudicial, but Pezze ruled the pictures were admissible because they assisted forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht.

“The use of these photos to illustrate his complex testimony assisted the jury in understanding his explanation and in determining the degree of guilt,” Pezze wrote.

Pezze said defense objections to her rulings regarding the questioning of witnesses were not substantiated.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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