Orange shooting: was it self-defense?
GREENFIELD — Did a 20-year-old Orange man have a weapon in hand when he was shot with two .45-caliber slugs?
The trial of Corey Sutton of Turners Falls could hang on the answer to that question.
In the third day of the trial Wednesday, jurors heard from shooting victim Zachery Drew and Drew’s aunt, Danielle Berry, who was romantically involved with Sutton at the time of the Dec. 2, 2012 shooting. Sutton was 36, and Drew was 20.
Sutton’s police statements allege that Drew lunged at him with a screwdriver clenched in his hand, leaving him no choice but to shoot the attacker in self-defense.
Drew testified that he was empty-handed, and simply took a single step toward the sink to get a glass of water when Sutton opened fire.
Berry said that Drew held a sharp metal file, not a screwdriver, when he moved to attack Sutton.
When prosecutor Jeremy Bucci handed Berry the screwdriver to examine in court, she said she was quite sure it was not the object Drew charged at Sutton with.
When police responded to the trailer home, they found Sutton with his hands in the air. Sutton had unloaded his pistol, and placed it out of reach on the trailer’s porch. He had also placed the screwdriver allegedly used to attack him there, rather than leaving it where it landed after the shooting.
Bucci previously argued that Sutton rifled through the trailer home, found a screwdriver and brought it outside, so he could say it was used to attack him.
Though the confrontation that led to the shooting lasted for mere moments, Drew’s animosity toward Sutton had steeped for some time, argued defense lawyer Alexander Nappan.
Drew stated that he held a grudge against Sutton after he learned that the man had cheated on his aunt multiple times. Around Thanksgiving, 2012, he said, he learned that Sutton had cheated on his aunt again, and it was “the last straw.”
The night before the shooting, Berry had asked Drew and their roommate, George Brooks, to stay out of their shared trailer home until the next day, so she could bring her boyfriend home after an office Christmas party without worrying that his presence would lead to an altercation.
Drew, Brooks, and Brooks’ girlfriend wound up returning to the trailer that night. Sutton stayed in Berry’s bedroom, so he wouldn’t have a run-in with either of the other men. All five went to bed that night without incident.
The next morning, Sutton and Berry left the trailer to get a coffee, and returned to find the doors locked, with a note stating that Berry wouldn’t be allowed in until Sutton left.
Berry knocked on the door, and asked Drew to let her in, she said. When he refused, she had Sutton kick the door in. Berry went in first, and bumped into Drew in the kitchen, where the two got into a yelling match.
Berry said that she didn’t realize Sutton had entered the room until she heard the first gunshot.
Drew testified that he had been arguing with his aunt, but began yelling at Sutton when he joined them in the kitchen.
Tuesday, a recorded statement Brooks gave to police told a different story. Brooks told officers that he saw Drew push Sutton toward the back door before the shooting.
Brooks also said that Drew was empty-handed when he was shot.
Prosecutor Bucci argued that, even if Drew did lunge at Sutton while holding a hand tool, he dropped it before being hit by the second shot. Therefore, said Bucci, Sutton shot an unarmed Drew at least once.
Drew was shot clean through his left leg, and another bullet went through his left biceps and passed through his rib cage, grazing his liver and leaving him with a collapsed lung.
He spent four days in the intensive care unit of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, and three more days in a regular hospital room. After his release, he said, he was re-admitted because of complications, and spent nearly another week in the hospital.
Drew said that he was left with nerve damage, which occasionally leaves his left hand numb, and sends shooting pains up and down his leg.
The trial is set to continue today. Nappan said he will not call Sutton to the stand to defend himself, but a recording of a police interview with Sutton will be introduced.
During a recess, Drew said he hopes Sutton is sent to prison.
“I hope he gets the maximum penalty,” Drew said, and took a drag from his cigarette. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Sutton faces a maximum 15 years in state prison for the charge of aggravated assault and battery with a firearm.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279