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Defense lawyer says man on trial for murder is innocent; claims real shooter is gun supplier for Latin Kings

J.C Chadwell (copy) (copy)

J.C. Chadwell is led into Berkshire Superior Court in 2018 for his arraignment on murder and firearms charges in the July 4 shooting death of Paul Henry. A lawyer for J.C. Chadwell said Friday the 43-year-old did not pull the trigger, naming the shooter who killed Paul Henry as an alleged gang member.

PITTSFIELD — A lawyer for the man accused of killing Paul Henry said Friday the real shooter was an alleged gang member whose whereabouts are unknown.

J.C. Chadwell, 43, is on trial for Henry’s murder. Lawyers delivered opening statements in Berkshire Superior Court on Friday afternoon.

Sean M. Smith, who is representing Chadwell along with defense lawyer Brian E. Murphy, told jurors it wasn’t Chadwell who pulled the trigger the evening of July 4, 2017. It was another man. That other man, who he named, allegedly pushed Chadwell out of the way when he saw Henry approach Chadwell with a heavy bottle in his hand at a block party on John Street near Durant Park.

Special Assistant District Attorney Brett Vottero outlined for jurors, in his opening statement, what the commonwealth sees as the motive Chadwell had to commit the shooting. That motive stemmed from a dispute between the two men that began years earlier.

The prosecutor said Henry had “attacked” Chadwell with a machete on John Street about five years before the shooting, in 2012.

That incident left Chadwell with a slice wound behind his ear that required 10 staples and additional stitches to close, the prosecutor said. Fast forward to Independence Day of 2017. Vottero said Chadwell spotted Henry on John Street that day, and wanted to get even.

“When he saw Paul Henry that night, he decided to settle a score,” Vottero said.

The trial will resume Monday morning, when the prosecution is expected to play for the jury two hours of video. Chadwell may take the stand as early as Tuesday morning.

Dueling accounts

According to Smith, the defense attorney, Chadwell didn’t see Henry coming toward him that day at the block party, but the other man did, pushed Chadwell out of the way, then fired a single shot at Henry that would prove to be fatal.

That other man then ran out of the park, out of Pittsfield, and “out of this criminal investigation,” Smith said.

Later in the afternoon’s trial proceedings, Pittsfield police officer Kipp Steinman testified that the man in question twice declined to speak with investigators, and that the officer does not know where the man is now located.

Chadwell did speak to investigators, Smith said, but lied at the time about what happened the night of the shooting.

The defense claimed that Chadwell falsely confessed in order to help his sister, who had been arrested for allegedly misleading authorities during the investigation. Smith said that as a result of her arrest, she had been taken away from her two young children, and had become mentally and physically unwell.

Chadwell was “ready to say whatever needed to be said” in order to secure his sister’s release from custody, according to Smith. But Chadwell wasn’t going to turn on the man that the defense claims was the shooting, of whom he was afraid.

“He was desperate to protect his sister, so he was willing to lie. He was willing to lie and say he did it, in exchange for the release of his sister,” said Smith. The Eagle previously reported that Chadwell agreed to talk to police after they offered to reduce bail for his sister.

“That’s why he lied,” Smith said. “To protect his sister.”

In court papers, the defense said that the other man was gang-affiliated and supplied firearms to the Latin Kings, as well as had “motive and opportunity to inflict violence on the night of the murder ... .”

That other man “may have shot Mr. Henry either in an attempt to protect Mr. Chadwell or himself or to further his own criminal inclinations,” the defense filing asserts.

According to the defense records and a federal indictment, the man is fleeing prosecution from a sweeping federal case against dozens of alleged members of the Latin Kings.

That man, the defense lawyer said, “killed Mr. Henry, and knew better than to stick around.”

“He can outrun the police, he can outrun the prosecutor, but he can’t outrun the truth. [He] is guilty of murdering Paul Henry,” Smith said. “J.C. Chadwell is innocent.”

Smith said that though there were about 200 people at the party that night, there will be no witnesses for the prosecution who will say they saw who shot Henry that night.

Smith told jurors a murder weapon was not recovered.

Vottero, the prosecutor, said video places Chadwell on John Street the night of the shooting. Chadwell told authorities in a recorded interview that he had left the party before the shooting happened and went to New York. Contents of that recording were partially described by Vottero and later played to the jury.

However, prosecution witness Laura Truden said she picked Chadwell up in Pittsfield the night of the shooting and drove him to Chicopee, where she put him up in a motel for two nights. Truden said that Chadwell, her longtime friend, seemed upset.

In the courtroom sat loved ones of both the shooting victim and the man on trial for his murder.

During testimony by the medical examiner who handled this case, Dr. Robert Welton, the prosecution displayed a picture of Henry where he lay lifeless after falling on John Street.

Welton testified that the cause of Henry’s death was a gunshot that entered the left side of his chest and damaged his lung, heart and stomach. Welton testified that testing showed that Henry had consumed cocaine and cannabis sometime in the hours or days before his death, at the time of which he had a blood-alcohol level of about 0.2.

Henry also suffered abrasions, including a deep wound to his face. Vottero said in opening statements that the driver of a car had “backed over” Henry.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

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