At a hearing last Friday at state Superior Court in Stamford, a man accused in a Norwalk killing pleaded not guilty to a murder charge while his co-defendant requested a hearing to determine whether police had enough evidence to arrest him for the homicide.
Defense attorneys for Kyle Freitag, 21, of Seaview Ave., Bridgeport, and Terrence Baxter, 22, of 44 Bayview St., Norwalk, said they had different reasons for splitting their defense strategies in the trial for the murder of Norwalk resident Dajon Johnson, 19.
Public Defender Howard Ehring said it did not make much sense for his client, Freitag, to avail himself of a probable cause hearing -- where witnesses testify and are cross-examined by the defense to determine whether police have enough evidence to make an arrest -- because he believes the judge will rule with the police.
"The reason we don't want a hearing in probable cause is that the burden the state has in progressing with their case is so low that it doesn't even come up to a preponderance of the evidence," he said. "Is it more likely than not that the state can proceed in trying the case as they see it?
"With Kyle's case, he had allegedly given some statements to police that were detrimental to our case. He said that he felt his life was in danger and he felt he was going to be the victim."
Ehring said he did not see any possibility of Freitag's murder charge being dropped.
"There is no question in my mind that they would be able to continue prosecuting the case," Ehring said.
As a result, with his not guilty plea to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder, Freitag requested a jury trial.
Baxter's attorney, Frank DiScala, said he hoped the Feb. 13 hearing would give him more knowledge about the state's case against his client.
"This entire case revolves around (Freitag's) place of business and I'd like to find out why people were running from the scene," DiScala said. "There was some confusion that I'd like to have cleared up to find out why my client is being charged with murder.
"I can't make any comments as to what I know, but there is a lot I don't know, that I need to find out."
Freitag and Baxter have been held since their arrests in lieu of $900,000 bond each.
On Oct. 30, Freitag was picking up some carpentry tools in Norwalk when he and Baxter were in Freitag's Dodge Caravan at about 4:30 p.m. driving on Fort Point Street in East Norwalk, according to their arrest warrant affidavits.
Freitag, who was in the passenger seat, told police he saw Bancroft Daley, on the back of a scooter, pull up next to the van; Daley then pulled his hoodie over his head and reached into his waistband, he said.
Johnson, who was driving the scooter, and Daley are known members of the Rolling 20s MG gang, according to police reports.
Freitag told police the gang killed his close friend Joseph Bateman, 20, in Norwalk last February and Amos "A.J." Brown, 18, in August 2010.
When Brown was on trial for the murder of Rolling 20s MG gang member Tykwan Hunt, 16, of Bridgeport, Ehring, who defended Brown, said Freitag provided crucial testimony that led to Brown's acquittal.
When Freitag saw Daley reach into his waistband, he told police he had to "take control" of the situation and fired his gun twice, saying he was acting in self-defense.
One witness heard two pops and saw the scooter drive onto a curb and flip over. Johnson was found unresponsive and bleeding from the head, neck and mouth. He was pronounced dead at Norwalk Hospital.
Daley, who had been shot in the back, said he saw Freitag pull a gun and fire out the Caravan window at him and Johnson, the police report said.
Minutes later, State Police pulled the Caravan over on Interstate 95 in Westport. Freitag told police where to find the gun and admitted to shooting Daley.
"I shot that (expletive deleted)" Freitag allegedly told police.
"Freitag says he lives in constant fear he will be killed by this gang of people," a police report said.
Amos Brown Sr., who was in the court hallway on the fourth floor waiting for last Friday's hearing to begin, said he supported Freitag and Baxter.
"Kyle has been hunted by that gang since 2003," Brown said. "Anyone associated with my son has been hunted. Kyle was just defending himself. They have been hunting and shooting at him for years."