His first round of testimony was awash in contradictions. But his second round made the first seem credible by comparison.
As The Indy reported, Julius Graves — the main witness in the 1999 murder conviction of Anthony Sims — has provided several conflicting accounts of his own actions during and after the slaying of Li Run Chen at a Bushwick Chinese food joint in May 1998.
Sims’ case — handled by Brooklyn Assistant DA Mark Hale, who later helmed the office’s Conviction Review Unit from 2014 through this past June — is currently undergoing a proceeding called a 440 hearing, in which a judge decides whether to overturn Sims’ conviction. Because there is no jury, the hearing has continued sporadically since mid-October.
Graves first took the stand in late October, then completed his testimony on Nov. 19.
In round two on the stand, Graves reached a new plateau of absurdity.
One of the key pieces of evidence presented by Sims’ team in the first appearance was a 2002 affidavit in which Graves claimed not to have seen the shooter but that cops pressured him into identifying Sims. In his October testimony, Graves acknowledged that it was his signature on the affidavit but disputed whether he was the one who placed it on a statement that he says is not accurate.
Seeking to diminish the significance of the statement, Brooklyn DA spokesman Oren Yaniv — in response to The Indy’s reporting — tweeted that “the judge didn’t admit the affidavit into evidence.” In fact, Judge Danny Chun had said that he would not rule on whether he would allow it until Graves completed his testimony.
After hearing more from Graves on Nov. 19, Chun in fact admitted the affidavit into evidence. That’s because in round two on the stand, Graves reached a new plateau of absurdity.
In round one, Graves testified that immediately after the murder, he left his fiancée and toddler in their Bushwick apartment and went to stay at his sister’s place, describing it as a “half an hour” away. In round two, Sims’ lead attorney, Ilann Maazel, spotlighted phone calls that Graves now claims he received from Sims in the days immediately after the murder.
In advance of the current hearing, Graves told Brooklyn prosecutors that Sims called him several times, allegedly pressuring Graves to turn himself in. According to Graves, Sims placed the calls to a neighbor who lived on the third floor of Graves’ apartment in Bushwick. In the late 1990s, cell phones were not yet common.
In response to questioning from Maazel, Graves stated he received the calls on a cordless landline phone. So how, Maazel asked, did that phone work “when you were at your sister’s [apartment], a half hour away?” Graves continued to implausibly assert that he received the calls on the Bushwick neighbor’s landline.
During the morning session of round two, Maazel grilled Graves about threats he had claimed to receive from Sims at the time of the 1999 trial. By stating that he was in danger, Graves received over $20,000 in housing and food expenses from the DA’s office. The threats were written out on a document in 1999 — and Graves told Maazel that it “appears to be” his handwriting.
When that same document was brought up in the afternoon, however, Graves now asserted that he hadn’t signed it. “Earlier you said it looked like your handwriting,” Judge Chun interjected. “I thought [Maazel] was talking about a different document,” Graves claimed.
Despite the fact that at that point, they were discussing the document from 1999, Chun then announced that he would be admitting the 2002 affidavit into evidence. It was a clear sign that Graves’ testimony is anything but credible.
Graves was granted immunity from prosecution for the murder in exchange for his original testimony against Sims, which is standard practice. However, he could face a low-level felony charge for perjury in the current hearing, but that would be highly unusual, given that it would implicate Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez’s team.
The hearing continues this week.
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