There is no DNA evidence saying he drove the car. The only evidence that he did came from the shooter and another passenger who changed his story. And the jury initially returned a not guilty verdict.
Yet Drew Pritchett, 18 at the time, is going away for life plus 20-40 years for his part in the 2007 homicide of Terrance Monroe on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
“He didn’t do it. He was taken advantage of by the other boys who knew the system,” said his mother, Patricia Alexander. “He was in college, had no criminal history. Now he faces a life sentence, with no possibility of parole for a crime he did not commit.”
On Sept. 13, 2007, Monroe was shot in a drive-by as he sat on the porch steps of a house in the 1800 block of Morrison Street. The murder occurred just moments after another non-fatal shooting on North Charles Street.
Witnesses said a gray-colored Dodge fled the scene. Minutes after Monroe was shot, a patrol officer stopped the car on Columbus Street.
Pritchett and then 16-year-old Dorian Peterson were charged with the homicide and received life plus 30 to 60. The two other passengers were not. One of the passengers, Jamal Younger and cousin Karl Richardson, initially told police that Peterson was the shooter and Pritchett the driver, but in court, Oct. 29, Younger recanted, saying he’d only done that to get “shrimp and fries, a Newport cigarette and a visit with his girlfriend.”
Under questioning from Pritchett’s attorney, Brent McCune, he said his earlier statement was “a bold-faced lie,” and that his cousin, Richardson, not Pritchett, was the driver. Richardson failed to appear in court. Both are alleged members of the OGs (Original Gangstas).
DNA evidence introduced during the trial excluded Pritchett, Peterson and Younger as the driver, but could not exclude Richardson, who is still at large. Younger is currently in jail on unrelated charges.
“Other than failing to appear, there are no warrants or charges against him,” said Alexander. “He’s been seen all over town, at Dave & Buster’s, at an Allderdice basketball game—the police aren’t even looking for him.”
In his summation, Prosecutor Steven M. Stadtmiller said Pritchett and Peterson were aspiring gang members and were looking to kill members of the rival Crips. McCune noted that Pritchett had no gang affiliation, and was a student at CCAC. He also reminded the jurors that DNA evidence excluded Pritchett as the driver.
That appeared to be enough, as the jury initially returned a verdict of not guilty on first- and third-degree homicide charges, and guilty verdicts on charges of conspiracy and possession of a prohibited weapon.
But Judge David Cashman sent them to deliberate further because the verdict was “inconsistent.” Cashman noted that guilt of conspiracy to commit murder is the same as a guilty of murder. McCune argued that inconsistent verdicts have been upheld before. It was agreed, off the record, that the jury should determine a level of conspiracy, and that Pritchett would face guideline ranges for conspiracy rather than a mandatory life sentence for murder.
In about five minutes the jury returned with a slip that had crossed out the not guilty first-degree murder charge, and substituted guilty. Pritchett was sentenced March 1.
“I am still reeling with disbelief as to how all 12 jurors reversed their unanimous decision,” said Alexander. “I have nothing but sympathy for the families of the victims, but my son continues to be victimized, not only by these boys who lured him into this, but by the legal system we’re taught to trust.”
New attorney Paul Gettleman has already filed an appeal based on the altered jury slip and the use of “corrupt and polluted” testimony from Younger and Richardson.
“Oh, he’ll get a new trial. There were a number of errors,” said Gettleman. “I’ve never heard of anything like that. Usually when a jury’s slip comes in, it’s done. Then in five minutes, everything changes.”