JEANNETTE, Pa. — A Penn Hills man accused of killing another man in Jeannette in 2017 has an unusual defense as his trial begins: His twin brother, who died in 2018, might have been the shooter.
The trial for Darrelle Tolbert-McGhee, 30, began Tuesday after a 12-member jury and two alternates were seated Monday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse, according to Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.
Tolbert-McGhee is charged with criminal homicide in the death of 32-year-old Michael Wilson, of West Mifflin, who was shot in front of the Dollar General store on Clay Avenue in April 2017.
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TribLIVE reported Tolbert-McGhee’s defense attorney claims his client was in Florida at the time. He also suggested Tolbert-McGhee’s twin brother, Dwayne Tolbert-McGhee, was the shooter.
Attorney Tim Dawson told Channel 11 this is a case of “mistaken identity.”
Dwayne Tolbert-McGhee was shot and killed in Wilkinsburg in May 2018. He was awaiting trial on drug charges in Westmoreland County and was free on bail when he was killed.
Everyone thought this case would be in the hands of the jury by Thursday, but it’s on hold right now because the defense is flying someone in from Florida who they say will solidify an alibi for the defendant.
Dawson said his case of mistaken identity not only relies on a lack of scientific and forensic evidence, but also what they believe is a strong alibi.
He wants to prove Darelle was in Florida at the time of the shooting -- through an eye witness.
“He personally saw my client in the state of Florida on the date of this incident so he’ll come in and testify I saw this man, he knows the twins and he can distinguish the twins," Dawson said.
It’s the defense’s last ditch effort to try to clear Darelle in the shooting death of Wilson.
They contend it wasn’t Darelle who pulled the trigger, it was his twin brother, Dwayne.
The twins’ grandmother took the stand today and said even she couldn’t tell them apart.
“She talked about the similarities, she can’t tell them apart. She viewed the video, she can’t tell them apart and she testified to the alibi,” Dawson said.
Dawson is also trying to show pictures to the jury mugshots of the twins from the Allegheny County jail in 2013 and 2014. They’re eerily similar and difficult to tell who is who.
“It tells you that people that know the twins, are here to tell the truth and cannot distinguish them, and that in my mind creates reasonable doubt," Dawson said.
That witness from Florida is flying in Thursday night and will take the stand Friday morning at 9 a.m. The jury is expected to get the case for deliberation by the afternoon.
In court Wednesday, we got our first look at some of the physical evidence in the murder.
No gun, no DNA and no fingerprints -- but forensic experts testified saying 12 shell casings were found near Clay Avenue after Wilson was gunned down.
The defense is still trying to convince a jury that Darrelle wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, but they maintain it was his brother Dwayne.
“There’s nothing to connect this murder with my client scientifically or forensically, absolutely nothing," Dawson said.
Two police officers took the stand, saying they pulled over Darrelle’s twin, Dwayne, over months after the slaying in Jeannette.
They say he had a slew of drugs on him at the time and even handed them his brother’s ID and told them he was Darrelle, not Dwayne.
The victim’s former girlfriend was the last to testify. She identified Darrell as the shooter seen in surveillance video, saying she could tell the difference between the twins by their posture and stride, and a mark on Darrelle’s cheek.
“She has a right to testify but again she’s not an eyewitness and there’s no way in the world someone can identify a mole, color of eyes by looking at 5-10 seconds of video," Dawson said.
In court Tuesday, we saw new video of the moments before police contend Darrelle gunned down Wilson. One witness who took the stand said Darrelle said “got him” as he was running away from the scene.
She claims she knows Darrelle was the gunman because she saw his twin at the preliminary hearing and that their facial hair distinguished them.
Another witness, who allegedly talked to the shooter inside the Dollar General moments before gunfire erupted, didn’t know if the gunman was inside the courtroom.
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