Man convicted of killing 3 friends in New Jersey schoolyard seeks new trial, blames lawyer



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NEWARK, New Jersey — One of six men found guilty in the 2007 slayings of three friends in a schoolyard is seeking to overturn his conviction and wants a new trial.

Jose Carranza told a judge in Newark on Wednesday that he was an innocent bystander on the night of the shooting.

"I never laid a hand on any of them. I don't want to be paying for a crime that was committed by someone else," Carranza testified through a Spanish interpreter, The Star-Ledger reported (http://bit.ly/1yZYjkU).

Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin didn't issue an immediate decision.

Carranza, a 35-year-old immigrant from Peru who was in the United States illegally, was sentenced to 155 years in prison following his conviction of felony murder and armed robbery. He says his attorney coerced him not to testify and failed to conduct any pre-trial investigations.

But the attorney, John Dell'Italia, testified Wednesday that he advised Carranza against testifying because Carranza had provided written statements to an inmate that included drawings depicting the shootings.

The diagrams included a basketball hoop, stick figures to identify Carranza and his co-defendants and the words "bang, bang, bang."

Carranza testified he was "there at the location but not the area where it all happened."

"At that time, everything was happening so fast," he said. "I was just sitting there, wondering what was going on."

Carranza acknowledged that he said during his trial that the decision not to testify was his, but he said Wednesday that he was lying then.

The three victims and a fourth who survived were enrolled or about to enroll at Delaware State University.

Victim Iofemi Hightower's mother, Shalga Hightower, was in the courtroom Wednesday and said that Carranza's testimony was "another tactic" to convince people he's innocent.

"It opens up that wound again," Hightower said outside court. "It's never easy for me to hear what was done to my daughter. What I hear that ... that just tears my heart again, over and over and over."


Information from: The (Newark, New Jersey) Star-Ledger, http://www.nj.com

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