Prosecutors in the trial of Kenyatta Austin continued to roll out their case Tuesday against the Niagara Falls man accused of fatally shooting a Buffalo woman and her grandson.
Austin, 26, is charged with shooting four people, killing 56-year-old Yvette Johnson and her grandson Kyrie Johnson on Grape Street in the early morning hours of July 2, 2018.
The first witness on the stand Tuesday, 29-year-old Shaquanna Sanchez, told prosecutors Austin had dropped her off at home from a party and left for Buffalo the night of July 1 in a white Sonata rental car.
Sanchez said when he came back home on July 2, he told her he was involved in a shoot-out in Buffalo and was carrying a duffel bag which she believed had a military style black and gold gun in it.
She also testified the white rental car had three bullet holes in it and the driver side window was missing and later covered with plastic.
She said he later told her to report the car stolen to the rental car company but she refused. She also checked her E-ZPass to see if it was used since she put it in the rental.
She then testified he went back to Buffalo later that day on July 2, a day before Buffalo Police searched her house where they saw ammunition in Austin’s bedroom dresser.
On cross examination, she told defense attorneys that because she was asleep the night of the shooting, she really didn’t know where he was headed exactly after he dropped her off.
As for the duffel bag, she admitted to the defense she didn’t know for sure what was in it, claiming she only saw the gun one other time, months before the shooting, and it wasn’t in a bag.
Two other witnesses were called to the stand Tuesday, including the manager of the state's E-Z Pass program, who indicated Sanchez’s tag travelled across both directions of the Grand Island Bridge on the days in question, but he did tell the defense there was no photo of the car’s license plate taken.
Next was a rep from Verizon, who discussed phone records made from Austin’s cell phone number at the time.
The defense pointed out, however, inaccuracies and inconsistencies with the records and the carrier’s towers.
Last on the stand Tuesday was Yvette’s son and Kyrie’s dad, Devery Johnson.
He described the shooting scene as chaos and saw lots of smoke and fire following a number of rounds coming from the side of the house.
He too was shot in the leg and was treated for his injuries.
He then told defense attorneys once he heard the gunfire he ran into the street then up on the porch but didn’t who or how many people fired the shots.
Prior to Tuesday’s testimony, both sides got into a long, drawn-out discussion about the new criminal justice discovery, or evidence reform law that took effect January 1.
Under the law, prosecutors are required to turn over all evidence to defense attorneys in a more timely manner. Though the case is 18 months old, prosecutors say they’re doing the best they can to comply with the new law.
The defense says while the district attorney’s office is doing “a phenomenal job” delivering what they have, he still has concerns.
“What our concern is, is twofold: first, does the discovery statute apply to the case at hand? Because it was pending before January 1. And second, was there sufficient communication with law enforcement back in 2018 to preserve and assemble the discovery materials that we would now be entitled to under the new statute,” said James Auricchio, defense attorney.
Auricchio asked Judge Kenneth Case to rule on the matter and order prosecutors to fully comply with the law, yet he did not do that. Instead he urged the state to continue to comply as best they could.
Both sides are back at it Wednesday morning, as testimony in the case is set to resume.