GOSHEN - The robbery attempt that ended Raul Diaz-Martinez’s life last year in the City of Newburgh was driven by Omarrio Morrison’s desire to control the apartment building at 168 Chambers St., a prosecutor argued Thursday as Morrison’s trial began in Orange County Court.
“Territory, greed and control,” Assistant District Attorney Leah Canton said in her opening statement in front of Judge William DeProspo.
“This case is about one man’s desire to stake his claim on his territory.”
Morrison faces felony counts including second-degree murder, attempted first-degree robbery and gun possession in the June 21, 2017 shooting death of Diaz-Martinez, 63.
Morrison sold marijuana, Canton told jurors. Diaz-Martinez sold heroin.
Canton told jurors that Diaz-Martinez and his girlfriend, Christine Spencer, were preparing to move into the basement apartment.
Morrison called over Dejiore Fox, 22, and Tyrees Canigan, then 16, who were hanging out on the street, took them to his own apartment, solicited them to rob Diaz-Martinez and provided two loaded handguns, Canton said.
Canigan was the lookout, she told jurors.
Fox, nervous, encountered Diaz-Martinez in the basement hall and pulled the trigger, Canton said.
Morrison’s lawyer, James Winslow, told jurors that if they listen carefully to the evidence and hold prosecutors to the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, he’s confident they will acquit Morrison.
Spencer, who is in Orange County Jail on unrelated misdemeanor charges, testified that she had just cleaned the bathroom, and Diaz-Martinez was hanging curtains.
She was going out the back door to have a cigarette when she heard him say, “Who are you?” followed by a gunshot.
She said she ran through the backyard, down an alley and then came back around the block, searching for a phone to call 911.
When Spencer reached the front of 168 Chambers, Morrison had called 911 and handed her the phone.
At the dispatcher’s request, she went back to the apartment and checked Diaz-Martinez.
“He wasn’t moving. He was bleeding,” she testified. “His head was bleeding.”
Fox and Canigan have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but are expected to get more favorable deals for truthful testimony.
The trial resumes Friday.