RALEIGH — One of the brothers accused in a series of burglaries and violent home invasions took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and claimed someone else a man of similar size and features was responsible for the crimes.
Jahaad Marshall, 27, testified against the advice of his attorney, a strategy that prompted Deonte Thomas, the Raleigh lawyer representing him, to rise before the judge and ask to be removed from the case.
Thomas also told Judge Henry Hight while jurors were out of the room that he believed Marshall was committing perjury on the stand.
Marshall has been on trial for a week in a case that has left a lingering sense of disquiet over several Raleigh neighborhoods that rarely experience burglaries and violent home invasions.
Marshall, 27, and his brother, Shabar Master Marshall, 17, were arrested in January 2013 and accused of carrying out an early-morning burglary and shooting at a home in Raleighs historic Oakwood neighborhood. The invasion ended with a man paralyzed from a gunshot wound to the spine and his wife a victim of sexual assault.
Marshall faces 23 charges that include attempted first-degree murder, attempted first-degree rape, sexual assault from the burglaries and home invasions that occurred in late 2012 and early 2013.
Defendant maintained innocence
Marshall said he did not commit any of the crimes he was accused of. Instead, he said, he drove the getaway car used to transport his younger brother and a guy named B.J. to and from the Lane Street home where the sexual assault and attempted murder happened.
Shabar Marshall pleaded guilty this month to charges related to the Oakwood case and another home invasion. Similar weapons were used, and items stolen from the houses were found in the car that Jahaad Marshall acknowledged driving.
Jahaad Marshall testified that he had nine brothers and eight sisters, though some of them were only half-siblings. Life was not always easy for them, Marshall said, and crimes he had pleaded guilty to over the past 10 years had made it difficult for him to find work.
Marshall said he worked at a Snoopys restaurant for a while but left in a huff after the manager tried to make him wear one of their hot dog costumes and stand on the sidewalk with a sign.
Marshall said in the neighborhoods where he lived, the way of life was different for many. He said people often bought and sold stolen goods on the street, and he admitted to buying and using marijuana.
According to Jahaad Marshalls testimony, when B.J. came up to him on Jan. 6, 2013, he was struggling with a number of issues. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he had been kicked out of his house and was living in a hotel room.
It was hard for me
He needed money, he said, and thought he could drive B.J. and his brother, 10 years his junior.
All I knew is they were going to do something, Marshall said.
He told his brother and the acquaintance that he had to wait for his girlfriend to go to sleep so he could sneak out.
At the time it was hard, Marshall testified. I was going through some tough situations. It was hard for me. I guess I wasnt really right.
Jahaad Marshall said he dropped his brother and B.J. off on Elm Street on the night of the Oakwood invasion and remained in the car.
He knew the two had a gun, but he said he did not know they were going to use it like that.
On Jan. 7, 2013, a couple in their 30s left the kitchen window cracked inside a Lane Street home to rid it of the smoke from chicken thighs cooked earlier in the evening.
The husband and wife fell asleep and awoke between 3 and 4 a.m. to find two intruders standing over them.
Husband fought attackers
The intruders forced the husband and wife out of bed. The intruders made them lie face down on the floor, and a stun gun was used to shock them.
The husband and wife were asked where the money was, according to testimony. They offered money from their wallets, but the intruders wanted more.
The woman offered jewelry, but that wasnt enough, either.
The woman was forced to perform a sex act while the younger intruder pointed a gun at the back of her head.
The other intruder had restrained the womans husband for part of that time before engaging in what prosecutors contended was another attempted rape.
The husband then tried to fight the attackers off of his wife, creating an opportunity for her to escape. She ran to the neighbors house, pleading for help.
A gunshot went off then.
The husband was shot, and according to a report from emergency room doctors, the bullet missed his heart by roughly an inch and struck a vertebra, leaving him paralyzed.
The victims testified earlier this week. The woman said she thought she and her husband would be killed.
State questions existence of B.J.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger accused Marshall of making up B.J.
He doesnt really exist, does he? Zellinger asked Marshall on cross-examination.
Zellinger pointed out inconsistencies in Jahaad Marshalls testimony and highlighted evidence that could tie him to the other burglaries and home invasions.
Investigators found a printer stolen from one of the homes in the hotel room where Marshall had stayed. Marshall said he bought the printer from someone but said he could not remember the details.
An iPod in the back of Marshalls car belonged to the victim in one of the earlier burglaries. Marshall said he did not know how the iPod ended up there.
Zellinger asked why, if Marshall had been wrongly accused, he never thought to tell police about B.J., or Bryan as the culprit was sometimes called.
Did you ever decide to let the police know you were just accidentally involved in this crime? Zellinger asked.
No, Marshall responded.
Marshall said he wished he had not opted to drive the getaway car and said he was sorry that his action had led to a man being paralyzed from the waist down.
I wish I could take that back, and me, myself, I apologize for the things I didnt do, but what my brother did, Marshall said. I wish I could take it back.
Wake County prosecutors had planned to try the Marshall brothers together, but Shabar Marshall entered guilty pleas to some but not all of the incidents earlier this month.
Judge Hight declared a mistrial for Jahaad Marshall early last week after the defense attorney for Shabar Marshall told the jury during opening statements that both brothers were guilty of some of the break-ins.
Hight ruled that the statement had created undue prejudice against Jahaad Marshall and agreed to a mistrial and called for trying the brothers separately.
The younger Marshall already is serving a seven- to eight-year sentence for charges he was convicted of last year related to a burglary on Dec. 11, 2012. He awaits sentencing for the crimes committed inside the Lane Street home on Jan. 7, 2013, and inside a Sherry Drive house on Dec. 30, 2012.
Closing arguments are set for Thursday.
Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1