Poker shooter jailed on testimony of four dead people

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 04/27/2021

In Syracuse, New York, a jury found Charquan Edwards guilty of a poker-game shooting using the testimony of four dead people. It sounds like a Gothic ghost story: justice from beyond the grave. But the testimony didn’t come from ghosts. The reason for the undead witnesses was threefold bad luck: bad luck for Edwards, bad luck for the courts, and above all bad luck for the four dead people.

In 2015, Edwards attended a poker game. He had an excellent run of cards, swelling his stack substantially. Then the cards turned against him. What you believe happened next depends on whether you credit Edwards’s defense lawyer or the jury of his peers.

The defense maintains that the victim, George Smith, pulled a gun. Edwards got into a struggle with Smith, trying to wrest the weapon away from him. In the scuffle, the gun went off and injured Smith.

After hearing the evidence for a mere four hours yesterday, the jury decided to convict Edwards based on the other version of events. In that version, after Edwards’ run of cards had chilled, he grabbed the roughly $9,000 that was in play and made for the door. Somewhere between the table and the exit, Edwards put a bullet into or straight through Smith.

Edwards was tried and convicted back in 2015. This was Edwards’s bad luck.

Lucky in cards…

The entire trial was overturned in 2019 by a court of appeals. The court ruled for a retrial on the grounds that Edwards’ legitimate complaint regarding his lawyer had been ignored the first time around.

In the U.S., people who have been accused by the courts will often request new council as a way of delaying their trial. Assuming that Edwards was running this gambit, the court ignored his request. However, the appellate court found that his complaint was valid. The lawyer in question had failed to file omnibus motions, a standard part of any case like this. This was the court’s bad luck.

The bad luck of the deceased should be obvious. Having survived being shot, George Smith died in the intervening years between the 2015 trial and the 2021 trial. He died of unrelated causes. He was 83 at the time. The three other witnesses similarly shuffled off their respective mortal coils in the same gap of time.

That poker game is starting to look cursed.

The testimony of the dead in the 2015 trial is a matter of court record. That testimony made up the bulk of the evidence the first time around. As a result, the retrial largely consisted of this testimony being read to the jury in transcript form.

In the end, the retrial changed very little, Edwards was found guilty again and will serve out his term. Bad luck for him once again.

Featured image source: Flickr by Penn State