Jury selection begins in slaying outside club
NEW HAVEN — More than a year after the shooting death of Tony Howell outside a Whalley Avenue club, the accused shooter, Ernest Pagan, Monday went on trial in Superior Court on a charge of murder.
Pagan, 29, formerly of 212 Sheffield Ave., also is charged with attempted murder in the shooting of James Brown Jr., who is now 28. Brown was seriously injured, but survived.
Pagan, who has been incarcerated since his arrest, was brought into the courtroom dressed in a tie, tan shirt and dark pants. He twice said "not guilty" when asked by the court clerk how he pleaded to the charges.
Testimony will not begin until Feb. 25 at the earliest. Defense attorney Thomas Ullmann and Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Elizabeth Baran Monday began the laborious process of selecting 16 jurors. By the end of the court session Monday afternoon, prospective jurors had been questioned, but nobody had been picked.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Thompson told the first group of potential jurors that even if Pagan were to be convicted, he would not face capital punishment. The death penalty is reserved for only select cases in Connecticut.
Howell, 31, and Brown were shot outside Newt’s Cafe, 345 Whalley Ave. Street at about 1:15 a.m. Dec. 24, 2006. Pagan was arrested Feb. 2, 2007.
According to the police affidavit written by Detective Reginald Sutton, two days after the shooting, Rodrigo Ramirez told police he had seen Pagan shoot the two men outside Newt’s. Ramirez said he had known Pagan for about 10 years.
The affidavit also says Danielle Adams and her friend Michael Anderson both identified Pagan as the shooter.
Howell’s fiance, Jamie Walker, told Sutton she saw Brown arguing with Keron Robinson inside the club just before the shooting. She said she saw Brown and Howell conferring, then the two of them walked outside with Robinson.
Shortly afterward, she heard gunfire. She ran outside and saw Howell and Brown lying on the ground in a pool of blood, according to the affidavit. Howell was unable to speak, but she said Brown kept saying to her, "I’m sorry, I’m sorry."
Walker told Sutton she had heard Brown was the intended target because he and some of his friends had jumped Robinson while they were locked up at the New Haven Correctional Center. She said Pagan and Robinson were good friends.
But the affidavit says when police interviewed Brown a couple of weeks after the shooting, he said he could not identify his attacker.
When Pagan was first interviewed, according to the affidavit, he said he had never been to Newt’s. In a follow-up interview, he allegedly said he had not been there since November 2006.
Several of Pagan’s family members, including his fiance, were in court Monday to provide emotional support.
Randall Beach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5766.
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