Man convicted in Millbrook road-rage death
A jury on Monday convicted a 23-year-old Far Northeast man of involuntary manslaughter in the road-rage death of another man.
However, Gerry Shaffer Jr. was found not guilty of the much more serious charge of third-degree murder. He was also acquitted of criminal conspiracy.
Shaffer, who is on house arrest, will be sentenced on March 8. The time on house arrest does not count toward his possible jail time, but the six months he spent in jail before making bail does count.
The defense has indicated it will ask the judge to give him a sentence of time served.
Mark Wallace, 54, died 12 days after an altercation with Shaffer and his father in April 2010 at the intersection of Knights and Fairdale roads in Millbrook.
What exactly happened in the early evening of April 8, 2010 is at issue.
Shaffer Sr., a Philadelphia fireman, was driving east on Fairdale Road when he honked his horn at Wallace, a pedestrian. Shaffer Jr. was a passenger in his dad's car.
The elder Shaffer and Wallace exchanged unpleasantries, with the pedestrian insisting he had the right of way.
Shaffer Sr. parked his truck, got out and walked toward Wallace, and a fight ensued. Shaffer Jr. eventually joined the ruckus.
The trial, in room 807 of the Criminal Justice Center, featured contradictory evidence about what happened next. What is known is that Wallace, who had a .267 blood alcohol content, died of a brain injury on April 20. Shaffer Sr. died of a heart attack in December 2011, as he was awaiting trial.
Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian H. Ransom presided over the case.
Testimony was heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Shaffer, who cried during much of the case, testified in his defense.
Assistant District Attorney Peter Lim prosecuted the case. The defense team consisted of Jamie Funt, Coley Reynolds and Noah Cohen.
“Gerry Shaffer murdered Mark Wallace, and don't let anybody tell you different,” Lim said in his closing statement on Friday.
Funt delivered the closing statement for the defense.
“He’s trying to break up that fight,” he said of his client. “He did not intend to hurt Mr. Wallace.”
Funt noted that the prosecution’s four eyewitnesses presented contradictory testimony. He believes they were affected by the news media and a desire to help the prosecution.
“They’re wrong about so many things,” he said.
Dr. Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathologist called by the defense, testified that Wallace’s injuries were consistent with a fall.
“That’s reasonable doubt,” Funt said.
Prosecution eyewitnesses Justine Braciszewski, Jean Janukowicz, Christina Pettigrew and Mark McCarty returned to the courtroom for closing arguments.
It was Braciszewski who provided the key evidence, testifying that she saw Shaffer pick up Wallace and slam him to the ground.
Dr. Edwin Lieberman, an assistant city medical examiner, testified that Wallace’s fatal injuries were consistent with being thrown to the ground. The injuries were not consistent with a fall, he testified.
Lim reminded the jury that Shaffer left the scene and never called 911.
“If it was an accident,” he said, “why not stay?”
For more details on the trial, read Wednesday’s Northeast Times. ••