Gang violence is commonly associated with places like Chicago and California, but the culture of gangbanging is prevalent in cities and towns across the nation. Much of the time, nowadays, the active gang members are wiley teens and young men, who operate with little to no guidance from oldheads. A current case coming out of New York City is evidence of dangerous gang activity in “The Big Apple.” Taylonn Murphy, stands trial for the 2011 murder of a rival and conspiracy.
Murphy is described as a young, “enthusiastic” member of the 3 Staccs gang, based in Grant Houses of West Harlem. He is accused of conspiring with 35 other 3 Staccs members to take out members of nearby crews Money Avenue and the Make It Happen Boys, in January 2010. The prosecution say the series of disputes that followed over “wounded pride, turf and bragging rights” led to the shooting death of Murphy’s older sister, Tayshana, in 2011. She was an 18-year old basketball star at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in Manhattan, and ranked as the 16th best point guard in the nation by ESPN. “This defendant fed off, stoked and provoked the gang beef that led to his sister’s death,” prosecutor Andrew Warshawer said. “He bears a great deal of responsibility for her death.”
Murphy’s current predicament stems from an inflammatory music video that was made. In the video, Walter Sumter, an 18-year-old member of Money Avenue with a rap sheet, dissed the slain Tayshana. Murphy already had beef with Sumter, evidenced by threats made on social media to kill him, before and after the video was made. Murphy (who was 16 at the time) is accused of shooting Sumter outside a party on 154th Street and Amsterdam Avenue on Dec. 30, 2011. This was three months after his sister was killed. Murphy was arrested within minutes of the shooting and released a few hours later. The gun was never found.
Two members of Money Avenue took the stand testify that they’d seen Murphy shoot Sumter once in the chest, as four other 3 Staccs members charged him up. A 3 Staccs member turned on Murphy, testifying that he confessed to the killing about a month after it happened, and that Murphy showed him a derringer two weeks before, which matches the witnesses’ description of the gun.
Mr. Murphy’s lawyer, Patrick J. Brackley, argued that the three gang members, all testifying in return for significantly reduced sentences, could not be trusted. He pointed out that Mr. Sumter, who was shot through the heart and both lungs, fell dead about 240 feet from where the eyewitnesses said he had been shot. “Their testimony is not consistent with the physical evidence,” he said.
Mr. Brackley also highlighted differences in the witnesses’ accounts — [one eyewitness] said the gunman had a yellow coat, while [another the other eyewitness] said he wore a tan jacket and a hat — as evidence they were not telling the truth. “It’s all lies,” he told the jury.
Murphy was one of 103 other young men swept up in a 2014 raid on all three gangs in attempts to dismantle the sets and end the war which had been waged for four years. The Times elaborates:
The prosecutors are using the state conspiracy law to tie together a string of shootings, assaults, stabbings and gun cases, holding everyone in 3 Staccs responsible under the theory they entered an agreement to attack other gangs.
The jury has heard evidence about four other shootings and a slashing that 3 Staccs members are accused of carrying out, even though Mr. Murphy had no role in those attacks. Jurors were even presented evidence about the two shootings of 3 Staccs members by rival gangs.
During the six-week trial, prosecutors presented scores of social media messages among gang members, as well as recorded calls and handwritten letters from jail to show that Mr. Murphy and other members of his gang had bought guns together and planned attacks on their rivals. “Collective responsibility — that’s how everybody here understood this,” Mr. Warshawer said.