A week of testimony in the trial of a driver who fatally struck a 27-year-old woman and her three sons on Roosevelt Boulevard ended Friday after a witness spoke about what he saw at the tragic scene in July 2013.
Through an interpreter, Michael Perez told Common Pleas Court Judge Steven R. Geroff that he was passed by a pair of vehicles going “80 or 90 miles per hour” that night.
Moments later, one of those cars — a silver 2012 Audi S4 driven by defendant Khusen Akhmedov — lost control and struck Samara Banks, 7-month-old Saa’mir Williams, 23-month-old Saa’sean Williams and 4-year-old Saa’deem Griffin. Banks’ 5-year-old son Saa’yon Griffin survived.
“I thought it was a doll, but it was a very young boy,” said Perez of what he saw that prompted him to get out of his car at the scene seconds later.
Perez took the stand just after Dr. Albert Chu, deputy chief medical examiner, shared the four victims’ autopsy-report findings and just before a drag-racing video found on Akhmedov’s Facebook page was shown in a room packed with supporters of the victims and the defendant.
An emotional week
Earlier this week, the driver with whom Akhmedov was allegedly racing, Ahmen Holloman, pleaded guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Akhmedov, who admits to driving the vehicle that killed the four, opted for a non-jury trial before Geroff on four counts of third-degree murder without the possibility of a mandatory life sentence.
His attorney Michael Diamondstein has maintained throughout the trial that his client’s actions didn’t reach the murder charge’s malice threshold.
“It’s beyond all doubt that Mr. Akhmedov’s driving is to blame,” Diamondstein said. “There is no question Mr. Akhmedov was speeding, and if he had been driving slower, the accident wouldn’t have happened.”
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb, however, maintained that evidence would show Akhmedov’s “hardness of heart and the sustained recklessness.” According to one witness, he’d been warned about street-racing behavior a week before the fatal collision.
Among those called to the stand so far were witnesses who saw the vehicles weaving throughout traffic at high speeds. Accident Investigation Division Officer William Lackman, who went to scene and performed the accident-reconstruction investigation, also testified.
Thursday proved to be an emotional day in Courtroom 707 as Banks’ then-14-year-old sister Laporcha Jones testified about that night on Roosevelt Boulevard.
Before the four were struck, Jones reached the median between the inner and outer lanes with Saa’yon Griffin.
“I heard a boom and turned around, and saw the kids on the ground,” testified Jones, who couldn’t see her sister because the force of impact sent her about 70 yards down the roadway.
According to an Inquirer report, the day’s testimony left a teary-eyed Lipscomb telling a police officer at the courthouse that other cases “never affected me this way.”
Around noon Friday, Geroff adjourned court until 9:30 a.m. Monday, when closing arguments are expected to be heard before the case goes to the judge to decide.