Jury Finds Anthony Russ Not Guilty in Sellers Murder Case
By: James Kinsella
A Barnstable Superior Court jury yesterday afternoon found Anthony "Little Ant" Russ not guilty of the July 18, 2007 murder of Jacques Sellers.
Mr. Russ, 22, of Hyannis and his supporters in the courtroom reacted ebulliently as the jury's forewoman replied "not guilty" to the jury's finding on the charge of second-degree murder in the death of Jacques Sellers. The eighteen-year-old was killed by a .40-caliber bullet as he sat watching television in the living room of 36 General Patton Drive in Hyannis.
Police say nine shots—three .40-caliber bullets, six .38-caliber bullets—were fired at the house about 11:15 that night.
Officers from the Barnstable County Correctional Facility and uniformed Barnstable Police Department patrolmen with guns stood inside the packed courtroom yesterday as the verdict was read.
The celebration in the courtroom continued as the forewoman replied "not guilty" to each of the remaining charges and counts in the case: assault and battery by a dangerous weapon, a handgun; two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, a handgun; two counts of illegal possession of a handgun and ammunition; and discharging a weapon within 500 feet of a dwelling without permission of the owner.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated about seven hours over two days before returning with their decision yesterday at 3:25 PM.
Patrolmen, cruisers and a motorcyclist from the Barnstable Police Department were in evidence outside the superior courthouse yesterday as the jury deliberated. Barnstable Deputy Chief Craig Tamash said the department was responding to a request from a court officer to stay near the courthouse as a precaution to head off any trouble.
"Yeah!" Mr. Anthony said in a loud voice as he was led by court officers back into the lockup at the side of the courtroom. "Yeah! Yeah!"
He remains in custody on an armed assault to murder charge stemming from an incident in September 2007 on Hiramar Road in Hyannis.
Following the jury verdict, court officers and officers from the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office led Mr. Russ out of the courthouse to a waiting jail van. Barnstable police officers cordoned off Mr. Russ from his cheering supporters.
Phillip Spencer of Hyannis, the uncle of the murder victim, was shocked as he arrived outside the courthouse yesterday afternoon and learned of the verdict.
"I don't believe it, I don't believe it," Mr. Spencer said. "Somebody has to be held responsible."
Mr. Spencer has said the mother of Jacques Sellers had sent the youth from his North Carolina home north to Cape Cod to keep away him away from any summertime trouble there.
As for the defendant’s family, Betty Russ of Hyannis, the grandmother of Mr. Russ, wept as the verdict was read. Ms. Russ later declined to comment on the verdict.
The prosecutor in the case, First Assistant District Attorney Brian S. Glenny of the Cape & Islands District Attorney's Office, argued that Mr. Russ fired the .40-caliber bullet that took the life of Jacques Sellers.
In July of this year, a Barnstable Superior Court jury found Julian M. Green, 22, of Dennis guilty of second-degree murder and other charges in the Sellers murder case.
The prosecutor in that case, also Mr. Glenny, argued that Mr. Green and Mr. Russ participated in a joint venture to pepper the little ranch house at 36 General Patton Drive with bullets about 11:15 on the evening of Wednesday, July 18, 2007.
The jury convicted Mr. Green of second-degree murder even though Mr. Glenny acknowledged that Mr. Green, allegedly wielding a .357 Magnum revolver, did not fire the bullet that killed Jacques Sellers.
Judge Gary A. Nickerson sentenced Mr. Green to life in state prison. Before the trial started, Mr. Green had turned down an offer from the Commonwealth to plead to a lesser charge of manslaughter in return for agreeing to testify against Mr. Russ.
At trial, Mr. Green, however, had two things working against him that Mr. Russ did not.
One was a series of letters he wrote from jail to his then-girlfriend, Jessica Schwenk of Yarmouth, saying that he had participated in the July 2007 shooting on General Patton Drive. The letters were introduced as evidence at his trial.
Devarus Hampton’s Testimony
The other was the testimony of Devarus Hampton of Hyannis, who testified at Mr. Green's trial that another resident of General Patton Drive, Todd Lampley, had not mentioned participating in the shooting of 36 General Patton Drive.
Mr. Hampton and Mr. Lampley were fellow Mississippi natives who spent time together in Hyannis.
According to testimony, bad blood existed between Mr. Lampley and a man named Rodney Ferguson, a Yarmouth resident who frequently visited his brother, Ryan Ferguson, at his residence at 36 General Patton Drive. The Ferguson brothers testified that Rodney Ferguson periodically would beat up Mr. Lampley.
Mr. Lampley, in fact, was an early investigation target in the case, until police attention shifted to Mr. Green and later also to Mr. Russ.
On Tuesday this week, Mr. Hampton stunned many in the courtroom when, in response to questioning by the defense attorney for Mr. Russ, Joan M. Fund of New Bedford, he testified that Mr. Lampley told him that he wanted to go shoot up the house at 36 General Patton Drive.
Further, he said that Mr. Lampley made a statement to him about the shooting a day after the incident which involved him and his "homeboy."
In response, Mr. Hampton testified, he told Mr. Lampley that he did not want to talk about it, because Mr. Hampton thought he could wind up in front of a jury testifying about what Mr. Lampley had said.
"And as time went by, he mentioned something about the K-9 dog going to the spot where he was standing in, and he got away lucky or something," Mr. Hampton testified. "That's the only thing I heard him say. And me and him fell out behind that. So, we didn't really hang out like that anymore."
Earlier in the trial, Barnstable Police Patrolman Troy Perry testified that he and his K-9 partner arrived at 36 General Patton Drive shortly after the shooting.
The K-9 proceeded to follow a track between the two houses across the street, through an overgrown area behind those houses in the interior of General Patton Drive—a residential street which is roughly a large circle with an short connection to Bearse’s Way—and on to the front yard of 23 General Patton Drive, where Mr. Lampley was then in residence.
Officer Perry testified that the dog then lost the scent.
Mr. Lampley, who testified in the trial that he did not shoot up 36 General Patton, also said that he saw a police officer outside his home at 23 General Patton a short time after the shooting occurred.
After Mr. Hampton testified about his conversations with Mr. Lampley, Ms. Fund confirmed with Mr. Hampton that he had not previously given the district attorney's office that version of events, and in fact had testified differently at what she in front of the jury generically called a "hearing"—that is, the murder trial of Julian Green this past July.
She further confirmed that he was receiving immunity from the prosecutor for criminal prosecution for anything he might say in his testimony, as he had in the Julian Green trial.
Mr. Hampton, who is serving a sentence at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility for attempted murder and statutory rape, was subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify at Anthony Russ’s trial.
Mr. Hampton said he had changed his testimony because he previously had not understood what immunity meant. He further testified that no one was threatening or forcing him to make the new statements about Mr. Lampley.
Mr. Glenny, rising to conduct a re-direct examination of Mr. Hampton, began speaking to the witness in a far louder voice than he had used at any prior point in the trial.
"Sir, do you know what perjury is?" Mr. Glenny asked Mr. Hampton.
"Yes," Mr. Hampton replied.
"What is it?" Mr. Glenny asked.
"I guess it's like lying or something, right?" Mr. Hampton replied.
"You guess it's like lying or something?" Mr. Glenny asked.
"That's what I'm saying, right," Mr. Hampton said.
"It's lying, isn't it?" Mr. Glenny asked.
Under further questioning by the prosecutor, Mr. Hampton acknowledged that this was the first time he had testified about Mr. Lampley’s statements about being involved in the shooting.
Mr. Hampton also acknowledged that he did not care much for the police.
"Hey, they dirty cops," he said. "Why should I like them?"
Mr. Hampton, whose right arm was in a sling, also testified that a court officer at Barnstable District Court had assaulted him Monday, resulting in his injury.
"So, bad court officers, right?" Mr. Glenny asked.
"Yes," Mr. Hampton replied."
Just like the bad police? Bad court officers?" Mr. Glenny asked.
"Hey, it's on camera," Mr. Hampton replied. "You can go look at the camera."
Drew Segadelli of Falmouth, the defense attorney who represented Mr. Green in the July trial, said he would be seeking a new trial in light of the perjured testimony that he said Mr. Hampton gave at the earlier trial.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Fund and Mr. Glenny gave their closing statements in the case.
"It's amazing how some lies can so affect a young man's life," Ms. Fund told the jury.
The attorney said three key prosecution witnesses—Dana Durfee, Jessica Schwenk and Borkay Baygboe—all had ulterior motives to lie about Mr. Russ’s alleged participation in the General Patton Drive shooting.
Mr. Durfee, Ms. Schwenk and Mr. Baygboe, all being held in custody on unrelated matters at the time they spoke to police, all wanted to get out of jail, Ms. Fund said.
Mr. Durfee and Mr. Baygboe each testified that Mr. Russ, who was being held with them in jail, told him he had participated in the shooting.
Ms. Schwenk testified that on July 18, 2007, she was with Julian Green at her mother's birthday party when he received a call on his cell phone from Mr. Russ, telling him to come to Hyannis.
That same day, a witness named Jill Parsons testified, Mr. Green asked her to bring him a gun that he had left in her garage. Ms. Parsons said Mr. Green picked the gun up from her at a meeting in the parking lot of a CVS in Yarmouth.
Ms. Schwenk testified she subsequently saw Mr. Russ and Mr. Green later that evening on General Patton Drive. She also said that she followed an instruction to park her car on a street near General Patton Drive; that she saw them come running to her car; that she followed an instruction to drive the two men to another nearby street, where both men got out of the car; and that she then drove away from Hyannis.
Mr. Baygboe testified that Mr. Russ told him that he shot at 36 General Patton Drive because he was owed money for drugs.
Ms. Fund, however, said in her closing statement that the motive to shoot up the house was a different one, and that it was held by Mr. Lampley, not Mr. Russ.
Mr. Lampley, she said, had a continuing beef with Rodney Ferguson.
At the time of the shooting, Ms. Fund said, Rodney Ferguson was inside the living room with Jacques Sellers at 36 General Patton Drive, and Ryan Ferguson was visiting another house on the street.
"It's not drugs, it's not money," Ms. Fund told the jurors about the motive for the crime. "It's good old-fashioned animosity and hatred between two people."
Speaking of the murder of Jacques Sellers, Ms. Fund said, "It is tragic. It is tragic. It is sad. But the death of Jacques Sellers is not made right by convicting the wrong person."
She concluded by saying that the prosecution had not met its burden of proving Mr. Russ’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In his closing statement to the jurors, Mr. Glenny called on their common sense to set aside minor discrepancies in favor of the overall truth.
He also acknowledged that a number of prosecution witnesses themselves had run afoul of the law.
"If a crime is going to be committed in Hades, no angels are going to come forward as witnesses," Mr. Glenny said.
He reminded jurors that a glove discovered the next morning near 29 General Patton—a glove that later tested positive for gunpowder residue—was on a direct line to a path that led from the street to another nearby street where Ms. Schwenk said she parked the evening of the shooting.
He further reminded the jurors the glove was not found outside 23 General Patton, where Mr. Lampley lived.
Speaking of Mr. Durfee, the prosecutor said Julian Green, who was in jail with Mr. Durfee, told his fellow inmate that he fired the .45 caliber bullet that killed Jacques Sellers.
Mr. Glenny said that when Mr. Durfee subsequently relayed that to Mr. Russ, also an inmate, Mr. Russ corrected him on the caliber—that it was a .40, not a .45—and that it was he, not Mr. Green, who fired that gun.
Mr. Durfee also testified that Mr. Russ told him that he had better not be lying about his conversation with Julian Green, or he would kill him.
Mr. Glenny said the one thing that connected Mr. Durfee, Ms. Schwenk and Mr. Baygboe—none of whom knew each other—was Anthony Russ.
"Could they all be lying?" he asked the jurors.
Further, the prosecutor said the grouping of the bullets as they were found on and in 36 General Patton did not reflect some target practice gone terribly awry, but a focused attempt to shoot at where people were in the house.
The victim in the case, Mr. Glenny said, was an 18-year-old boy who had nothing to do with any of the animosity on General Patton Drive.
"And he winds up dead because they [Mr. Russ and Mr. Green] want to send a message about drugs and money," Mr. Glenny said.
The jury, however, did not see it that way.
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