WILKES-BARRE — A county judge on Thursday ruled Angelina DeAbreu’s lawyers can’t interview her son before trial in a case in which police say she covered up a deadly shooting of a city teenager.
Attorneys for DeAbreu, 31, now of Stroudsburg, had requested they be permitted to interview her 14-year-old son before a trial in the case begins on May 6.
Prosecutors allege DeAbreu covered up the fatal shooting of Tyler Winstead, 14, on April 5, 2012, inside her home on Hill Street, Wilkes-Barre.
DeAbreu’s son, Elijah Yusiff, 14, was charged in juvenile court with an unknown offense stemming from the shooting.
Attorney Thomas Marsilio, who represents DeAbreu along with attorney Larry Kansky, said Thursday he wanted to interview Yusiff to prepare DeAbreu’s defense.
“We want a fair chance to find out what he’s going to say,” Marsilio said.
Assistant District Attorney Mamie Phillips said it was her office’s intention to subpoena Yusiff to testify – as is normal procedure during trials.
Attorney Cheryl Sobeski-Reedy, who represents Yusiff in juvenile matters, said she objected to anyone interviewing her client before the trial.
“He’s in counseling … any further interrogation will adversely affect his already fragile emotional state,” Sobeski-Reedy said. “I strongly object to the interview.”
Yusiff’s father, identified during the proceeding only as “Mr. Yusiff,” has custody of the 14-year-old. He said he does not agree to any pre-trial interview.
“I think it’s up to the witness who they want to talk to and who they don’t want to talk to,” Judge David Lupas said, noting the issue was a pre-trial matter and should be handled by the attorneys involved.
Lupas denied the request, as well as a request by DeAbreu’s attorneys to individually question jurors in the case.
Marsilio said that because of extensive publicity and comments made by Winstead’s family, District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce, he was seeking to have jurors individually questioned. He also noted the shooting spurred formation of a community organization, Building Bridges, which aims to provide healthy outlets for teens.
Typically, in all jury trials except capital homicide cases, jurors are questioned in a large group and then some may be individually pulled aside for further clarification.
Marsilio asked that all jurors be individually questioned to find out what they know about the case due to publicity.
Phillips said she felt the normal jury selection process would weed out anyone who knew too much about the case.
“We could pick a fair and impartial jury with traditional questioning,” Phillips said.
Lupas said after reviewing court documents submitted by attorneys as well as their arguments Thursday, he also felt a jury could be selected in the traditional manner.
“(If there is) an issue, we could call them up and make further inquiries,” he said.
Lupas said he has requested a large pool of jurors to select from and he and attorneys will get a better feel for pre-trial publicity as they begin questioning.