BY KRISTEN DELGUZZI
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Andre Miles was the picture of composure on the witness stand Wednesday. Across the room, the woman who allegedly hired him to kill her husband was anything but.
As Mr. Miles was about to describe the precise moment he shot Maher Khrais and Khreis Ziad on Nov. 22, a sobbing Linda Khriss jumped from her chair at the defense table and began screaming.
"If I ask you not to kill him, why did you kill him? Why?" she wailed repeatedly.
When Mrs. Khriss' outburst continued, Judge Ann Marie Tracey quickly ushered the jury out of her courtroom, where the 38-year-old Cheviot woman is on trial on charges of aggravated murder.
Defense attorney David Scacchetti tried first to shush his client by placing a hand over her mouth. When that did not work, he pulled her head into his shoulder to muffle her cries.
During the time it took Mrs. Khriss to calm down, Mr. Miles sat impassively in the witness stand, wearing a blue jail outfit and handcuffs. He never responded to Mrs. Khriss' cries.
Mr. Miles, 24, claims he was contacted by a middleman -- Ahmad Fawzi Issa -- to carry out Mrs. Khriss' wish that her husband be killed. Although he still is awaiting trial on two counts of aggravated murder, he agreed to testify against Mrs. Khriss.
After about five minutes, it appeared Mrs. Khriss had calmed down. But just as attorneys were beginning to return to the courtroom to resume the trial, Mrs. Khriss began screaming again.
"You might as well hand him the . . . gun and let him shoot me, too," she sobbed, pounding her hand on the table. "Why, why, why did he kill him? They killed him, they killed him, they killed him, and they tried to kill me, too. Why, why, why?"
Jurors were not brought back until Mrs. Khriss calmed down several minutes later. Throughout the rest of Mr. Miles' testimony, she cried.
During his hourlong testimony, Mr. Miles coldly described the shooting and how he came to be involved.
He said that two weeks before the shooting, Mr. Issa approached him and asked whether he was interested in doing a favor to repay a debt. Mr. Miles, who last summer had borrowed $1,500 from Mr. Issa for drugs, agreed.
He said that three days before the shooting, Mr. Issa contacted him with instructions on how and when to kill Mr. Khrais.
Mr. Khrais, 35, and Mr. Ziad, 49, were shot in the parking lot of the family's grocery store in East Westwood. Mr. Miles was a store customer, and Mr. Issa worked there.
On cross-examination, Mr. Scacchetti noted that Mr. Miles never spoke directly to Mrs. Khriss. All his information came from Mr. Issa, who also is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated murder. All three could be sentenced to death if convicted.
In exchange for Mr. Miles' testimony, prosecutors will testify at his trial that he cooperated with them and helped in Mrs. Khriss' case. Mr. Miles, who did not get any deals or reduction in charges for his testimony, is hoping that such words will persuade a jury to recommend a life sentence instead of death.