YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Jurors in Hackensack this afternoon found a Bergenfield man not guilty on all counts in a New Year’s Eve 2012 armed robbery at an alleged drug den in Englewood after they disregarded DNA evidence that placed him at the scene.
Michael L. Barrett smiled broadly and hugged defense attorney Joseph A. Raia after the verdict, which followed less than a day combined of deliberations beginning Friday.
Barrett “said all along that he wasn’t involved,” Raia told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We have the greatest justice system in the world, and it was on display today.”
Prosecutors presented a ski mask left by the robbers on which Barrett’s DNA was found as their primary evidence in the trial.
A forensic DNA specialist put the chances that the sample taken from the mask could belong to any other African-American in the country as one in 64.1 million.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kenneth Ralph also offered jurors a statement that Barrett made to Englewood Police Detective Capt. Timothy Torell roughly 19 months after the holdup.
Told that the DNA on the hat matched his, Barrett, then an inmate at the Bergen County Jail, asked the captain: “How many years do I get if I plead guilty?”
The Hamilton Avenue home was assumed to be a target because of previous drug activity there. Responding officers found the place in disarray and arrested two occupants, Gavin Birthwright and Deshawn Stephens, on drug possession charges.
According to Raia: “They were partying, watching the ball drop, drinking and smoking weed. Soon after two women left, someone came in the back door armed with weapons, and used them to intimidate Birthwright and Stephens.”
The two told police they were robbed, shots were fired, and “those guys were not from around here. They were from someplace else, maybe Newark, but not here,” he said.
Barrett was cleared of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, using a deadly weapon during a theft, armed burglary and illegal possession of a shotgun and a handgun.
STORY / PHOTO: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
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