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Defense blames dead teen in ’10 Godleski killing

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A dead teenager is to blame for a shooting that killed a Catholic University student bicycling home from work in 2010 rather than the teen's friend who is on trial for the slaying, the man's defense attorney said Tuesday.

Attorney Jonathan Zucker told a D.C. Superior Court jury during opening statements in the first-degree murder trial of 18-year-old Eric Foreman that his client is not guilty of fatally shooting Neil Godleski, who was traveling through Sherman Circle in Northwest when he was attacked. Instead, Mr. Zucker said another teenager who was accused of a non-fatal shooting in the same park on Aug. 22, 2010 — the same day Godleski was shot — is the one who pulled the trigger.

"Our theory is that it was Prince Okorie," Mr. Zucker said, referring to a teenager who himself was gunned down in broad daylight three months later.

Prosecutors said Mr. Foreman, who was 16 at the time of the killing, shot Godleski after he grew angry that Okorie, also 16 at the time, had botched the shooting earlier that day.

"He had to show his friends how it was done," Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne Dedjinou said. " 'It's like butter, baby.' Those were his words as he stood over Neil Godleski's body."

Godleski was riding home from an evening shift as a waiter at Phillips Restaurant on the Southwest waterfront when he was shot several times, including at least twice at close range, in a high-profile crime that shocked and horrified the city.

The .38-caliber gun used in the shooting was never found, but Ms. Dedjinou said it could be linked through matching shell casings to a number of other shootings in the same area, including the shooting earlier that day by Okorie. Mr. Foreman's friends, some of whom have recanted their original accounts of the shooting, are expected to testify that Mr. Foreman was involved. Ms. Dedjinou said prosecutors also will introduce video of a statement Okorie gave to police before his death.

Detectives investigating Okorie's death believe he was killed because of rumors he was cooperating with the investigation into Godleski's death, according to previous reports by the website Homicide Watch. A trial of the man arrested in Okorie's slaying ended in a mistrial earlier this year.

During his opening statement, Mr. Zucker also said an eyewitness to Godleski's shooting has given descriptions of the shooter that better match Okorie than Mr. Foreman.

Prosecutors say Mr. Foreman robbed Godleski, with police initially saying $60 was taken from him. Officers who arrived at the scene of the shooting testified Tuesday that $77 was found in Godleski's possession. Mr. Zucker said Godleski was not robbed and had all of his belongings with him when he was killed.

At the time of the killing, Mr. Foreman was a ward of the city's Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services and was staying at Dupree House, a group home in Northwest. Godleski's parents have filed a lawsuit against the group home's operator. They were present in the courtroom Tuesday but declined to comment on the case while the trial is ongoing.

Several people present to support Mr. Foreman also declined to comment.

The trial is expected to continue through next week.

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