Trial set to begin in 2014 shooting death of Goshen man

  • Creatas Creatas

Published: 9/24/2019 11:36:03 AM


The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — Prosecutors in the murder trial of a Pittsfield man will likely be without one of their key witnesses after a judge ruled the witness would incriminate himself if he testified.

Laquan Johnson, 24, is accused of shooting Anthony Gamache of Goshen in the leg during a botched 2014 marijuana deal. Gamache, who was 29, was treated for the bullet wound but died the following day from a blood clot, which an autopsy determined was caused by the gunshot.

Jury selection began Monday and is expected to continue Tuesday. Johnson faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection with Gamache's death.

Last November, Peter Campbell, of Pittsfield, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges associated with the shooting. He was identified as the shooter by witnesses, who later recanted those statements, and Campbell himself at one time admitted to pulling the trigger.

Campbell said he fired the shot because he was under the impression he would, at most, be looking at a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and was willing to take the rap for Johnson under those circumstances.

Gamache was expected to survive the shooting at the time Campbell gave those statements. As the investigation proceeded, Johnson was identified as the other person with Campbell at the drug deal.

Campbell was originally charged with second-degree murder, but a plea deal reached with prosecutors allowed him to plead to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 4 1/2 to six years in prison and was expected to be a prosecution witness in Johnson's trial.

Judge Michael Callan, who is presiding over that trial in Berkshire Superior Court, ruled Monday morning — prior to the start of jury selection — that Campbell would not be able to testify because doing so, even about basic elements of the case, would violate his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

The Berkshire District Attorney's Office is considering an appeal of that decision, according to Assistant DA Joseph Yorlano, who is prosecuting the case.

Johnson's attorney, Calvin Carr, sought to have Yorlano called as a witness in the case, arguing Yorlano was the only consistent attorney in the case against Campbell, who was represented by a number of different lawyers over the years and could testify regarding any offers made to Campbell by the state.

That motion was denied.

Callan also ruled that there would be no mention of alleged gang affiliations among Johnson and others involved in the case during opening statements. Whether they will be allowed during testimony will be addressed during the trial when they reach that point.

Carr has raised questions regarding whether the blood clot which eventually killed Gamache was caused by the gunshot, noting he expected that medical records would show Gamache had clots in both legs, including the one that was not injured.

In July, Ian Lang, who was in the car during the shooting, identified Campbell as the shooter but later admitted that he lied to investigators.

Prosecutors said Lang identified Campbell because he was angry about Gamache's death and Campbell was the only one of the two co-defendants he could identify by name.

Lang pleaded guilty to perjury and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail.

Testimony in Johnson's trial is expected to begin Thursday and continue into next week.

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