Brian Blades' Manslaughter Trial Begins
Jun. 10, 1996
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A tearful Brian Blades sat silently in court Monday, listening to the tape of the 911 call he made moments after a tussle over a gun led to his cousin's fatal shooting.
The voice of the Seattle Seahawks receiver, caught on tape in that first emergency call after the 12:38 a.m. shooting July 5, 1995, echoed through Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow's courtroom Monday.
``I need you to come right now. I need you to come now,'' Blades screamed, his voice hoarse with emotion.
The first police officer testified that as she reached the scene, he was shouting out again and again: ``Why, Why, Why, Why?''
Charles Blades was fatally shot in an apparent tussle with Brian Blades at Brian Blades' townhouse in Plantation, outside Fort Lauderdale.
The shooting happened moments after a beer-drinking, partying Fourth of July ended in a family quarrel _ first between Brian Blades' brother Benny and Benny's ex-girlfriend, then between brothers Brian and Benny _ who's a defensive back for the Detroit Lions.
Police said Brian Blades threatened to get a gun, then stormed home, with Charles along to try and calm him down.
A short time later, in Brian Blades' home, a single, fatal shot struck Charles Blades of Opa-locka in the neck.
Charles, both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree, was just trying to play the role of peacemaker between his two cousins.
The 911 tape was played back as testimony began in Blades' trial on a single count of manslaughter. Moments before, opening statements marked the start of the case that's raising the possibility of 10-year prison sentence _ if the Seahawks' receiver is convicted.
Prosecutor Peter Magrino portrayed Charles Blades' shooting an act of anger, stemming from ``an error in judgment.'' Brian Blades' defense attorneys, in turn, called the death of the professional athlete's 34-year-old cousin ``a tragic accident.''
The 911 tape was played back during testimony from Plantation Police 911 operator Joan Marie Cafferelli, who confirmed taking the call just after midnight on Independence Day last year.
``Listen, I went down there to stop my brother from fighting with this girl ... and the gun went off and shot my cousin,'' Brian Blades shouts to the 911 operator on the tape.
Plantation police officer Deanna Farron was first to arrive at the scene after that first 911 call came in.
``I could hear the word `Why?' repeated, several times, a loud yelling,'' Farron testified, just as she approached the study or office where the shooting had taken place.
That incessant cry from Brian Blades, defense attorney Fred Haddad said, was picked up on a second 911 call placed a few minutes after Brian Blades' emergency call.
Initially, Blades entered an innocent plea to the manslaughter charge. On April 30, he changed that to a no contest, saying he wanted to avoid more suffering for his family.
But when state prosecutors insisted that Blades' punishment include time behind bars, the 30-year-old football star on May 18 withdrew that no contest plea, seeking instead a jury trial.
In opening statements, Magrino, charged Blades was aware of the danger of his actions.
Brian Blades, Magrino said, ``got angry, he got upset, and he proceeded in a course of conduct ... that resulted in manslaughter.''
But defense attorney Bruce Zimet argued that the shooting was tragic, not criminal.
``They were cousins who were like brothers who loved each other, and neither of them wanted any harm to come to either one of themselves,'' Zimet said.
``Once Charles was shot, 911 was called, and the person who called 911 was Brian Blades himself.'' the defense attorney told the jury, ``not this wild, raged killer about to do something.''
The jury of six members and four alternates was selected last week.