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Wendy’s massacre suspect is guilty: Defense attorney

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A defense attorney for accused Wendy’s massacre mastermind John Taylor told prospective jurors in State Supreme Court this week that his client was guilty and his conviction was inevitable.

With both the defense and prosecution assured that he will be found guilty, Taylor’s attorneys focused their questions to possible jurors on the death penalty as the jury selection process that started Sept. 10 continued before State Supreme Court Judge Steven Fisher in Kew Gardens.

Taylor, 38, of Lefrak City, is accused of engineering the execution-style murders of five employees of a Flushing Wendy’s during a robbery on May 24, 2000.

In February 2001, Craig Godineaux, 32, of Jamaica, pleaded guilty to shooting three of the victims and two others who survived. Godineaux is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown elected not to purse the death penalty against Godineaux after tests showed he was mildly retarded.

Despite personal misgivings against the death penalty, Brown is seeking capital punishment against Taylor.

In jury proceedings Tuesday, John Youngblood, one of Taylor’s attorneys, told the courtroom that Taylor had committed the crimes.

“My client and his partner in crime, Craig Godineaux, did this crime,” Youngblood said as Taylor sat facing another direction, unmoving. “He’s guilty ... they killed those people.”

Youngblood made similar comments to jurors the day before.

The defense team’s decision to admit its client’s guilt comes with a mountain of evidence against Taylor. The prosecution has a signed confession, several witnesses and a motive in that Taylor was fired from the same Wendy’s where the carnage occurred.

New York state law leaves the death penalty in the hands of a jury, not a judge. In order for the jury to consider whether Taylor should receive the death penalty, they must first convict him of murder in the first degree.

Fisher explained to potential jurors that murder in the first degree requires means there was premeditated intent on the part of the defendant accompanied by “aggravated circumstan­ces.”

Fisher said multiple killings and murder in conjunction with a robbery both are examples of aggravated circumstances.

Taylor was originally charged in June 2000 with one of the killings. Three months after Godineaux pleaded guilty, Taylor was hit with a supplemental indictment, charging him with planning all of the killings.

Despite Youngblood’s proclaiming Taylor’s guilt, his fellow defense attorney, Kelley Sharkey, said the defense did not agree with the prosecution on all 54 counts in the indictment.

“The DA may well — we anticipate he will — prove many of those charges,” Sharkey said. “It is our position that the DA has not, and cannot, prove some of them.”

This week’s proceedings were part of the second phase of jury selection.

On Sept. 10, 750 jurors were given hardship forms, which asked whether or not they would be able to serve for several months, the projected length of the trial.

About 310 of the original 750 were chosen to move on to the following phases.

In addition to questions about the death penalty, the prosecution and defense asked questions about potential jurors’ past experiences with crimes, Wendy’s restaurants and other races.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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