Jury deliberations begin in road-rage death in Far Northeast

Gerry Shaf­fer Jr., 23, is on tri­al on third-de­gree murder charges in con­nec­tion with the death of ped­es­tri­an Mark Wal­lace, 54, after an al­ter­ca­tion in the Far North­east.

A jury de­lib­er­ated for about a half hour this af­ter­noon in the tri­al of a 23-year-old Far North­east man who is on tri­al in con­nec­tion with the road-rage death of an­oth­er man.

Fol­low­ing clos­ing state­ments in the tri­al this morn­ing, Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Lil­lian H. Ransom gave a charge to the jury. The pan­el then re­tired to the jury room in late af­ter­noon for about a half hour be­fore stop­ping for the day. De­lib­er­a­tions are ex­pec­ted to re­sume on Monday morn­ing.

Gerry Shaf­fer Jr. is charged with third-de­gree murder and crim­in­al con­spir­acy in the death of Mark Wal­lace, 54. Wal­lace died 12 days after an al­ter­ca­tion with Shaf­fer and his fath­er in April 2010 at the in­ter­sec­tion of Knights and Fairdale roads.

What ex­actly happened in the early even­ing of April 8, 2010, is at is­sue in the tri­al.

Shaf­fer Sr., a Phil­adelphia fire­man, was driv­ing east on Fairdale Road when he honked his horn at Wal­lace, a ped­es­tri­an. Shaf­fer Jr. was a pas­sen­ger in his dad’s vehicle.

The eld­er Shaf­fer and Wal­lace ex­changed un­pleas­ant­ries, with the ped­es­tri­an in­sist­ing he had the right of way.

Shaf­fer Sr. parked his truck, got out and walked to­ward Wal­lace, and a fight en­sued. Shaf­fer Jr. even­tu­ally joined the ruck­us.

The tri­al, in room 807 of the Crim­in­al Justice Cen­ter, has fea­tured con­tra­dict­ory evid­ence about what happened next. What is known is that Wal­lace, who had a .267 blood al­co­hol con­tent, died of a brain in­jury 12 days later. Shaf­fer Sr. died of a heart at­tack in Decem­ber 2011, as he was await­ing tri­al.

A jury of nine wo­men and five men was se­lec­ted on Monday.

Testi­mony was heard of Tues­day, Wed­nes­day and Thursday. As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Peter Lim is pro­sec­ut­ing the case. The de­fense team con­sists of Jam­ie Funt, Coley Reyn­olds and Noah Co­hen.

“Gerry Shaf­fer and his fath­er murdered Mark Wal­lace, and don’t let any­body tell you dif­fer­ent,” Lim said in his open­ing state­ment.

The pro­sec­u­tion’s best wit­ness, by far, was the first one called to testi­fy. Justine Bra­ciszewski, 22, said she was walk­ing to­ward Frank­lin Mills mall when she heard honk­ing and yelling. She test­i­fied that Shaf­fer Jr. was the one who in­jured Wal­lace.

“He picked him up and slammed him right to the ground,” she said.

Dr. Ed­win Lieber­man, an as­sist­ant city med­ic­al ex­am­iner, test­i­fied that Wal­lace’s fatal in­jur­ies were con­sist­ent with be­ing thrown to the ground. The in­jur­ies were not con­sist­ent, he test­i­fied, with a fall.

“It took more force than just a fall,” he said.

However, Dr. Jonath­an Ar­den dis­puted that. A Vir­gin­ia-based forensic patho­lo­gist testi­fy­ing for the de­fense, he told the jury that Wal­lace’s in­jur­ies were con­sist­ent with a fall.

Shaf­fer Jr. was the only oth­er wit­ness called by the de­fense.

The de­fend­ant, who is on house ar­rest, has cried and wiped away tears dur­ing much of the tri­al, in­clud­ing while he was on the stand.

Shaf­fer Jr. test­i­fied that he was tex­ting when he heard his dad beep the horn.

“Get out of the road, as­shole,” Shaf­fer Sr. yelled at Wal­lace.

Shaf­fer Sr. told his son to stay in the truck while he con­fron­ted Wal­lace. Shaf­fer Jr. got out of the vehicle when he saw his dad grab Wal­lace by the col­lar.

The two were fight­ing when Shaf­fer Jr. reached them.

“Dad, dad, stop,” test­i­fied he told his fath­er.

Shaf­fer Jr. demon­strated what happened next, with Funt and Co­hen play­ing the roles of Shaf­fer Sr. and Wal­lace. He test­i­fied that he got in the middle of the com­batants, pushed his dad and got hit by Wal­lace, a blow that knocked off his glasses. He ducked his head and grabbed Wal­lace by the waist to avoid get­ting hit again, and he and Wal­lace fell to the ground. Wal­lace did not move after the fall.

Shaf­fer Sr. told his son to get back in the truck and joined him mo­ments later.

“This is go­ing to be rough,” fath­er told son, “but we’re go­ing to get through it.”

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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