This article was originally published on GoErie.com by Madeleine O’Neill on March 6, 2018
The defense in an Edinboro homicide case will not dispute this week that the defendant, 23-year-old Devin L. Stevenson, went to a Meadville Street apartment to sell marijuana and ended up shooting two men there.
The only dispute, Stevenson’s lawyer, David Ridge, said Tuesday, is whether Stevenson acted in self-defense when he shot O’Shae Imes, who later died of his injuries, and Andrew Baker during their botched attempt to rob Stevenson of the marijuana. All three were Edinboro University of Pennsylvania students at the time.
Ridge told jurors during his opening statement that Stevenson “was legally justified when he shot O’Shae Imes and Andrew Baker.”
“He truly and reasonably believed that they were going to shoot him” after he arrived at the off-campus apartment in the 100 block of Meadville Street on March 20, 2015, Ridge said.
Stevenson faces charges including homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and possession of the instrument of a crime. Ridge said he will ask jurors at the end of the trial to find Stevenson not guilty of those charges.
But the defense will not contest some of Stevenson’s other charges, including possession with intent to deliver and possession of a firearm without a license, Ridge said.
Assistant Erie County District Attorney D. Robert Marion told jurors that Imes did possess a fake pellet gun that appeared real and that Baker arranged for a drug dealer to come to the apartment so they could rob him.
When Stevenson arrived and entered the living room, Marion said, Imes entered the room in a black mask and holding the pellet gun. He took Stevenson′s bag and walked away when Stevenson began firing, Marion told jurors.
“This was a bad situation that was made lethal by the defendant, Devin Stevenson, when he started shooting people,” Marion said.
Ridge disputed the claim that Stevenson followed after Imes and continued shooting. Stevenson will testify that “he thought he was dead” when he saw Imes and fired to protect himself, Ridge said.
Imes died on March 19, 2016, in his native Rochester, New York. Investigators refiled charges, with the addition of a homicide charge, against Stevenson following Imes’ death.
Baker, who was shot in the shoulder, took the stand Tuesday morning and largely admitted to the scheme to steal Stevenson’s marijuana. He has been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery in the incident, but his testimony will not be used against him in that case, Assistant District Attorney Paul Sellers said in court.
“I believe that night was a big mistake, and the truth needs to be known,” Baker said when Ridge asked why he was testifying.
Baker denied that the plan was to make Stevenson fear he would be shot, and said he could not see what Imes did in the moments before Stevenson began shooting. In videotaped interviews with police after the shooting, Baker first said he did not believe Imes was carrying a gun, then later said Imes held a gun down near his waist when he entered the living room.
“That guy was in no danger at all,” Baker said of Stevenson during one of the interviews, which were shown in court. “There was no reason for him to shoot (Imes) in the back.”
Jurors on Tuesday also heard testimony from Edinboro police officers who investigated the crime. Officer William Winkler testified that he encountered Stevenson at the Edinboro police station about an hour after the shooting. Stevenson was “covered in blood,” Winkler said, and directed officers to his vehicle, where a bloody semi-automatic handgun was visible inside.
Testimony in the case will continue Wednesday before Erie County Judge John J. Mead, who is presiding. Stevenson is being held in the Erie County Prison without bond.