The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, June 11, 2002  

Trial Delay Sparks Street Brawl

Today’s Slice-o-Life comes from Philadelphia where spectators attending a court hearing in the so-called Lex Street murders case broke into a street brawl in front of the city’s Criminal Justice Center.

The Philadelphia Inquirer takes us there:

“The crowd in Courtroom 305 sat in a hushed quiet yesterday for nearly three hours, each side looking for justice in the worst mass murder in Philadelphia history.

“Once people were outside, the words turned bitter and the fists flew.

“And after spectators learned the four men charged in the Lex Street murders would remain jailed and that their case was delayed, the tension turned into a series of melees among family and friends of the seven victims and their alleged killers.

“Three people were detained by police for fighting but were later released.

“The action started as loud chatter and shouting in the hallway outside the courtroom as people waited for elevators. Threats were made. Fingers were jabbed in faces. Curse words were aimed like darts. And the men in blue quickly rushed in to try and bring calm. It didn’t work.

“When some young people gathered outside on Juniper Street near the first-floor lobby…tensions ruptured again and punches were thrown.

“‘Don’t let them lock me up’ said a bare-chested Terrance V. Sampson as he was whisked away by police officers and ushered back into the Criminal Justice Center…. ‘They got the wrong people,’ he said of the prosecution’s case.

“Others weren’t surprised at what happened. ‘I’m happy,’ said Tamia Pugh of the brawl. ‘I’m happy because they shouldn’t have been talking [nonsense].’ Pugh identified herself as a cousin of Calvin ‘CJ’ Helton Jr. Helton was one of the 10 people lined up and shot on the dining-room floor of a West Philadelphia crack house on Dec. 28, 2000. Seven, including Helton, were killed.

“In recent weeks, the case against the four men…seemed uncertain as reports emerged that prosecutors were considering withdrawing charges against them because of conflicting witness statements.

“So relatives of the accused killers -- some of them smiling and waving to family as they ate bread and chocolate-covered pretzels -- came to court thinking the four might walk out free men….

“After the brawlers simmered down, few people were talking, rendered quiet by Common Pleas Court Judge Gregory E. Smith’s admonishment about speaking to the media about the case.”

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