Judge biased toward Steeler's side, lawyer charges, seeks mistrial
Testimony from a woman who said Steelers lineman Mike Adams was “drunk, stumbling and couldn't hold his balance” before he was stabbed last year sparked a ruckus in court on Monday, leading attorneys for the three defendants to accuse the judge of bias and ask for a mistrial.
“Throughout the course of this trial, the court has been making continued objections without objections by the district attorney,” Bill Difenderfer, the lawyer for Jerrell Whitlock, told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani. “The court is showing a bias toward the government and the government's case.”
Whitlock, 27, Michael Paranay, 26, and Dquay Means, 26, all of Hazelwood, are charged with attempted homicide, conspiracy and attempted robbery. Adams said Whitlock stabbed him, Means held a gun to his head and Paranay punched him during a carjacking attempt near the corner of East Carson and 17th streets in the South Side shortly before 3 a.m. June 1.
The heated back-and-forth between Difenderfer and Mariani occurred after Shariea Cox, 26, of Edgewood testified that she was celebrating her birthday and waiting for food outside the Cambod-Ican Kitchen when she heard a commotion from around the corner.
Cox said she heard Paranay say: “Why can't you just pay for it. That's all I'm asking,” to which Adams responded “I'm not paying for (anything). … Do you know who the (expletive) I am?” She said he appeared very intoxicated.
Cox said that's when she saw Paranay punch Adams in the face and run away.
Paranay told police he was drunk and irate, punching Adams after the former Ohio State University standout knocked a shish kabob out of his hands. Doctors who treated Adams at UPMC Mercy said his blood alcohol level was 0.185 percent.
The trial became heated when Assistant District Attorney Christopher Stone, on cross-examination, asked Cox if she could identify the private investigator who knocked on her door Easter weekend to talk about the case. Cox identified Difenderfer as the investigator, which prompted defense lawyers to try to clarify the record.
Mariani refused — initially.
“That's the risk you take when you put a witness on,” he told them.
A red-faced Difenderfer yelled that his clients are not getting the “fundamental fairness” they deserve and said Mariani's decision to leave the jury with questions “totally negates” Cox's testimony.
“What (Stone has) made this witness look like is like we grabbed a girl off the street and had her read a script and repeat it,” Difenderfer said.
After a short recess, Mariani allowed Difenderfer to question Cox, making it clear to the jury she was initially mistaken.
Defense attorneys said they don't believe their clients are getting a fair trial because Adams is a Steeler. They believe Adams has lied about what happened the night he was stabbed because he didn't want the episode to affect his standing with the team.
Dr. Fred Fochtman, director of the forensic science program at Duquesne University, testified it would take about 28 drinks in an eight-hour span for a man Adams' size to have a 0.185 percent blood alcohol content. Adams is 6 feet, 7 inches and 325 pounds.
Defense attorneys have said Adams was on thin ice with the team because he tested positive for marijuana before the Steelers selected him in the 2012 NFL draft, and he couldn't afford another slip-up.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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