Testimony begins in murder trial for Michael Lawrence, co-defend - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Testimony begins in murder trial for Michael Lawrence, co-defendant

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(01/14/14) - He was a fugitive on the run for more than a year - and a suspect in two murders.

Tuesday, we heard the first testimony in the murder trial for Michael Lawrence and a co-defendant.

The two men are accused of shooting into a crowd of people and killing a 6-year-old girl.

Michael Lawrence gave a thumbs up to a supporter as he came into the courtroom. Lawrence and co-defendant Rico Saldana are accused of being with two other men in a car when gunshots were fired into a crowd on Esseling Street in August 2012.

Six-year-old Layla Jones, who was visiting family, was killed. Levonne Greer is already serving life in prison for the crime, and the fourth defendant will testify in this trial.

In his opening statements, Saginaw County assistant prosecutor George Best says the four men wanted to avenge the shooting death of one of their friends earlier in the day. He says they targeted the Wednesday night family get-together on Esseling.

"Lawrence leans across the vehicle, leans over Saldana, and empties a 40 or 45 caliber handgun, into the group of citizens, including Layla Jones," he said.

The attorney for Lawrence, William White, declined to give an opening statement, but Saldana's attorney, Jim Piazza, did, saying there were also gunshots being fired at the car.

"So there appears to be gunfire from both, side of the street at the car. Do we know which shot, whose shot hit Layla Jones?" Piazza said.

Layla Jones' mother, Julie Polk, who lives in Wisconsin, testified her daughter traveled to Saginaw to surprise the little girl's father for his birthday. He was also injured in the shooting. We've been asked not to identify him. He testified as to what happened when the shots rang out.

"They were coming out fast, well I heard about 5 or 6 before, before I was shot and down," he said.

The trial will continue Wednesday afternoon.

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