Courts

Teen convicted in attack on Miami-Dade officer will get new trial

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

The teen convicted in the robbery and shooting of an off-duty Miami-Dade police officer outside a Little Haiti church will be getting a new trial.

In court documents filed Wednesday, Miami-Dade prosecutors agreed that Willie Barney, 19, should get a new trial. The reason: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat, during jury selection, should have let Barney’s defense attorney boot a prospective juror.

That juror made the cut — and was later one of six that convicted Barney for the September attack on Miami-Dade Officer Wislyn Joseph, who was shot point-blank in the chest but miraculously survived.

“Willie are I are looking forward to a new trial and his vindication,” said defense attorney Robert Barrar.

Barney, convicted of attempted murder and robbery with no firearm, had faced up to life in prison at a sentencing next week.

Prosecutors say Barney and two other men confronted Joseph as the officer had just finished installing an awning at the church for an upcoming service. One of the men snatched a bracelet and two chains off Joseph.

At trial last month, Joseph identified Barney as the man who shot him in the chest. The single bullet miraculously missed every vital organ and bone in Joseph’s body, exiting his back.

As Joseph was rushed to the hospital, the police officer gave emergency dispatchers a description of the gunmen and their red Pontiac, which was pulled over seven hours later.

Barney’s DNA was also found on Joseph’s wrist, from where police said he brushed the officer. His defense: Joseph misidentified Barney as a robber and gunman.

Also charged with Barney: Travares Santiago and Dedrick Brown. Police say the trio embarked on a vicious two-county robbery spree that also included the murder of a man in Miami Gardens.

They were originally slated to go trial later, but prosecutors will now move to try the trio together and introduce evidence of at least one other robbery.

During the first day of jury selection last month, Barney’s attorney originally agreed to the juror. The next day, as lawyers mulled over a second panel of prospective jurors, Barrar asked that the first-day juror be booted — each side was allowed to strike up to 10 potential jurors.

But Judge Rodriguez-Chomat wouldn’t let him. And prosecutors, that day, agreed.

“However, research conducted by the state since the trial has determined that the [judge’s ruling] is most likely an error that would be reversed upon appeal,” prosecutors Richard Scruggs and Dawn Kulick wrote in a motion to the court Wednesday.

A new trial could start May 20.

“In admitting that justice requires a new trial, the state realized that I was right and they shouldn’t have fought me on this in the first place and wasted all these taxpayers’ dollars,” Barrar said.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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