Enquirer Herald

Not guilty; Jury rules Mobley not killer

Antonio Mobley reacts to the not guilty verdict in his murder trial at the Moss Justice Center in York Friday afternoon.
Antonio Mobley reacts to the not guilty verdict in his murder trial at the Moss Justice Center in York Friday afternoon.

YORK -- A jury needed less than two hours to acquit Antonio Mobley of murder, bringing a swift end to a case that has stretched nearly two years.

Mobley sat quietly in his chair as a clerk read the verdict to a packed courtroom at 2:18 p.m. Behind him, friends and relatives jumped up and shrieked in a celebration quickly quieted by Judge Lee Alford.

Across the aisle, the family of the late Dawud Chester left the room in silence.

The verdict came after three days of testimony in which prosecutors tried to prove that Mobley shot and killed Chester, 17, in a street fight on California Street in York.

"My heart goes out to the Chester family," said Mobley's mother, Marjorie, as she left the Moss Justice Center in York. "I know there is a God. That's all I can say."

Reached late Friday afternoon, Antonio Mobley, 27, said he was relieved to be back home in York. The voices of friends and relatives could be heard in the background as Mobley gave a brief interview.

"It went the way it's supposed to," he said of the trial. "Justice was served."

Mobley's defense lawyers didn't call any witnesses, instead focusing their efforts on exposing holes in the prosecution's case.

They hammered the point that detectives initially pursued another suspect and prodded witnesses to acknowledge their stories had changed since the September 2007 shooting.

In explaining the decision after the trial, attorney Jack Swerling said he and Melvin Roberts looked at each other moments before it was their turn to call witnesses. Both had reached the same conclusion.

"They had put up a couple of the people that we had thought about," Swerling told The Herald. "We got out of them some of things we would've wanted to show.

"At that point, we really couldn't add anything."

Prosecutor DeWayne Pearson of the state attorney general's office was less forthcoming as he left the courtroom. "All I can say is, we presented the case that we had," he said.

The case already had taken a number of unusual turns by the time it reached Pearson's desk.

Mobley initially was charged with murder by York police, but 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett dropped the charge soon after, lamenting what he called a botched investigation by the department. He cited a search warrant found in the case file that said witnesses saw another man shoot Chester.

Brackett passed the case on to the state attorney general's office, which chose to use the state grand jury's newly granted authority to investigate gang crimes.

Police said the shooting culminated a series of fights between the Cali Boys and Valley Boys, two neighborhood groups that had been around since 2004 but mostly operated as cliques.

Mobley's defense team brought together two men with a wealth of legal experience. Roberts has practiced law for 54 years in the city of York, but he got help from Swerling, the 6-foot-5 attorney known as "Mr. Murder" for his work on numerous high-profile cases during a four-decade career.

The attorneys got several witnesses to acknowledge their versions differed from what court transcripts show they told a state grand jury last year.

Swerling delivered an hour-long closing statement that shifted from a technical review of the law into a rip-roaring sermon that other lawyers said they could hear from outside the courtroom.

"You change the story as you need to change the story," Swerling said of the witnesses. "That's what these folks do. They told you so many lies, they can't even get it straight as to who did what."

"This is why this case cries out for a not-guilty verdict -- cries out for it," Swerling bellowed.

But in his closing arguments, Pearson recalled the half-dozen witnesses whose testimony indicated Mobley was the shooter. "Much like cream, the truth will rise to the top. And despite the best efforts of some people, you'll still be able to see it."

Less than three hours later, jurors sided with Swerling. The attorney exchanged hugs and handshakes with his client before departing the courtroom in victory.