Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Witness may face order to appear

Success of murder case depends on his testimony, prosecutors say

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The state's star witness in a homicide case didn't show up in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Tuesday and prosecutors are asking a judge to order him into the courtroom.

Cincinnati police Officer Bill Hilbert, who investigated the homicide, said Alonzo Buchanan might be afraid. Buchanan has been shot at since he testified before a Hamilton County grand jury and hangs out where friends of the accused killers live, Hilbert said during a hearing on why the order is needed.

The request comes after Buchanan failed to show up two days in a row to testify in a trial for Ryan Lillard, 23, of Clifton, and Derrick Benning, 22, of Evanston.

They are accused of killing 20-year-old Raymone Lyons on Aug. 6 in the West End. Both are facing two charges of murder and three charges of felonious assault.

Prosecutors said Buchanan was friends with Lillard and Benning and is also Lyons' cousin.

Buchanan can place the suspects in a car where shell casings from the homicide were discovered, Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Gerald Krumpelbeck said. Also, he is believed to have had a conversation with Lillard about what happened in which Lillard apologized for killing his cousin, Krumpelbeck said.

Krumpelbeck wants Judge Beth Myers to ask Buchanan why he won't show up and what the state has to do to make him show up.

"This couldn't be harder for him," Krumpelbeck said. "Unfortunately we need him to tie together the basic elements of the case."

Myers said she would make a decision by today.

This order requested is not the same as an arrest warrant, Krumpelbeck said. If it's granted, law enforcement officers would bring Buchanan to court, but he would not necessarily be jailed.

However, Krumpelbeck said, Myers could determine that the only way to make Buchanan testify at the July 26 trial is to issue a bond or order him into jail.

"All we want to do is make sure he shows up," Krumpelbeck said.

Such orders are rare, but not unheard of, Krumpelbeck said.

Local law officials say intimidation of witnesses is their single biggest obstacle to fighting violent crime. Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen is looking into starting a program that would help protect witnesses.


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