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Teen accused in Pottstown gunshot slaying seeks to block video evidence from trial

NORRISTOWN — A Philadelphia teenager accused of the gunshot slaying of a Pottstown man during a botched robbery attempt of another male is fighting prosecutors’ plans to show a jury a slow speed version of a video surveillance recording that captured a portion of the violence.

Jahme Barnes, who was 17 at the time of the alleged homicide but has since turned 19, showed no emotion in a Montgomery County courtroom on Tuesday afternoon as her lawyers argued prosecutors should not be permitted to present to a jury a slow motion version of the video evidence when Barnes’ trial gets under way next week in connection with the 10 p.m. Aug. 28, 2022, shooting death of Dakari Rome, 25, of Pottstown, inside a vehicle at Grant Street and Union Alley. Barnes also is accused of participating in the shooting and wounding of a 17-year-old Pottstown male, who also was in the vehicle.

“What the case law makes clear is that any slow motion video by its very nature is distorted evidence and presenting distorted evidence before a jury is not what we should be doing. There’s nothing to be gained by a jury that the real time evidence can’t show,” argued defense lawyer Karen R. Thek, who is handling the case with co-defense lawyer James P. Lyons.

Thek argued the video should be played at regular speed for the jury.

But Assistant District Attorney Robert Joseph Waeltz Jr. argued a slowed down version of the video, obtained from neighborhood surveillance cameras, will allow jurors to see more clearly the alleged actions of Barnes, the victim and two other individuals who were present during the deadly encounter.

“It will assist the jury in understanding specifically what happened in the moments leading up to and immediately after Dakari Rome’s death,” argued Waeltz, claiming the show motion version will enhance the jury’s understanding and therefore is more probative than prejudicial.

Waeltz and co-prosecutor Gabrielle Hughes played both the regular speed and the slow motion versions of the video evidence for Judge William R. Carpenter on a large projection screen in the courtroom.

The slowed down version of the video appeared to show Rome slump forward in the vehicle after allegedly being shot.

Once outside the vehicle, Barnes, according to the video evidence, appeared to hand a firearm to Kahseem Williams, 19, a man who also got out of the vehicle and who then used the weapon to fire several shots at a 17-year-old boy who ran from the vehicle.

In July 2023, Williams, 19, also of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree murder and attempted murder in connection with his role in the deadly shooting. Williams was sentenced to 12 to 24 years in prison under a plea agreement.

Carpenter took the matter under advisement and will make his ruling before jury selection begins for Barnes’ trial on June 24.

Barnes did not comment about the video evidence, shown in court for the first time, as she was escorted from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.

“She has no comment,” county Chief Public Defender Christine Lora said on Barnes’ behalf as the defense team accompanied Barnes from the courtroom.

Jahme Barnes, accused of role in gunshot slaying in Pottstown, is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom after a pretrial hearing on June 18, 2024. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Jahme Barnes, accused of role in gunshot slaying in Pottstown, is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom after a pretrial hearing on June 18, 2024. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

Barnes faces charges of second- and third-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, robbery, possessing an instrument of crime, possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of a firearm by a minor.

While Barnes was 17 at the time of the slaying she was charged as an adult by prosecutors who relied on state laws that allow certain juveniles to face adult charges if they are accused of committing violent crimes with a weapon.

With the charges, prosecutors alleged Barnes fired the gunshot that ultimately killed Rome.

If convicted at trial of second-degree murder, which is a killing committed during the course of another felony such as robbery, Barnes could face up to life in prison. A conviction of third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

Investigators relied on witness statements and video surveillance footage obtained from various cameras in the borough to identify the suspects and to uncover the alleged series of events that led up to the fatal shooting.

Jahme Barnes, in red prison jumpsuit, is escorted by sheriff's deputies from a Montgomery County courtroom after pretrial hearing on June 18, 2024. She is accompanied by Alana Hook, chief of policy and social services for the Montgomery County Office of Public Defender. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. - MediaNews Group)
Jahme Barnes, in red prison jumpsuit, is escorted by sheriff’s deputies from a Montgomery County courtroom after pretrial hearing on June 18, 2024. She is accompanied by Alana Hook, chief of policy and social services for the Montgomery County Office of Public Defender. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

The investigation began about 10:06 p.m. Aug. 28 when Pottstown police responded to a call of shots fired in the area of the 100 block of Grant Street and arriving officers observed bloodstains and several fired cartridge casings on Grant Street at Union Alley, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Mark Minzola and Pottstown Detective Michael Glauner.

A 911 caller reported seeing a dark in color SUV parked on Grant Street at Union Alley at the time the gunshots were heard.

Moments later, police were notified that two gunshot victims had been transported to Pottstown Hospital in separate, private vehicles. Rome sustained a single gunshot wound to his chest and was pronounced dead by an emergency room doctor.

The investigation determined Rome had been transported to the hospital in his own dark in color SUV. Williams, who left the hospital prior to the arrival of police, left his name and cellphone number with hospital personnel after he assisted Rome into the emergency room, according to the criminal complaint.

The second victim, a 17-year-old male, sustained a single gunshot wound to his left hand and had been transported to the hospital by his mother. He was treated for the wound and released.

Kahseem Williams, 19, is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom on July 7, 2023, after he was sentenced to prison for role in fatal shooting in Pottstown. (Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)
MARK MAKELA

Kahseem Williams, 19, is escorted by a deputy sheriff from a Montgomery County courtroom on July 7, 2023, after he was sentenced to prison for role in fatal shooting in Pottstown. (Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

The investigation determined Rome and the 17-year-old, who were friends, were “hanging out” with Williams and Barnes and an unidentified female in Rome’s Audi SUV, according to court papers. Barnes allegedly was driving the Audi with Rome in the front passenger seat, Williams in the rear passenger seat, and the 17-year-old boy in the rear middle seat.

The 17-year-old boy told detectives that when the group traveled to the area of Grant Street and Union Alley, Rome asked to see his gun and the teenager handed it to Rome, who then handed it to Williams, who passed it to Barnes, according to investigators.

Barnes allegedly waved the firearm around while videotaping herself before she pointed the gun at the 17-year-old boy and said, “What else you got?” according to court documents.

As the 17-year-old boy reached for the firearm, Barnes fired a round that struck him in the left hand, detectives alleged.

The fired projectile passed through the 17-year-old victim’s hand and then struck Rome in the chest, according to the arrest affidavit.

The 17-year-old victim then fled from the vehicle and ran into Union Alley toward his residence and as he fled he “heard additional shots and saw sparks coming from the ground in the area where he was running,” Minzola and Glauner alleged. Authorities alleged in court papers that once outside the vehicle Barnes handed the firearm to Williams, who fired several shots at the fleeing 17-year-old.

Detectives located four 9mm fired cartridge casings in the street at the intersection of Union Alley and Grant Street, according to court documents.

Detectives alleged Barnes and Williams then got back into the Audi SUV and drove the injured Rome to the hospital emergency room.

An autopsy determined Rome’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest and the manner of death was ruled homicide.


Source: Berkshire mont

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