Draft:Azibo Aquart

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  • Symbol opinion vote.svg Comment: As mentioned in an earlier comment, this is written as a defense of the individual, not a NPOV article. It could be helped by a/removing unnecessary detail about the trials, b/ removing excessive detail about the person life, and c/ removing general advocacy about the criminal justice system and its use fo scientific evidence. . DGG ( talk ) 04:52, 16 December 2018 (UTC)
  • Symbol opinion vote.svg Comment: That issue seems fixed to me. Amazing detail included here. Legacypac (talk) 05:56, 17 November 2018 (UTC)
  • Symbol opinion vote.svg Comment: This draft appears to have been written to make the subject look like he is innocent, and not as an encyclopedic article. This would need a substantial rewrite before it can even be considered for acceptance. IffyChat -- 12:10, 6 August 2018 (UTC)


In 2011, Azibo Aquart (born September 19, 1981)[1] was convicted on federal murder charges and sentenced to death[2][3]. He became the first, and to-date only, Connecticut resident sentenced to die by lethal injection in federal court. He has challenged his convictions and sentence.[4]

Federal Charges[edit]

Aquart was alleged to be the head of a crack-cocaine distribution ring[5] authorities called the “Aquart Enterprise,”[6] which until late August 2005[4] primarily sold crack cocaine out of an apartment building[1] on Charles Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[4] A prominent drug business in the city’s Hollow neighborhood[4] — their operation[7] supplied residents with drugs and money[8] and included look-outs and apartments where drugs were stored, prepared, and sold.[7] Ring members quickly became suspects in the August 24, 2005 killing of three people in that complex. The three — Tina Johnson, 42; her boyfriend, James Reid, 40;[5] and Basil Williams, 54, the owner of the condominium[9] — were found beaten to death, bound with duct tape.[5]

Authorities said Johnson had been selling[10] smaller quantities of crack cocaine[1] in the Charles Street apartments[10] without Aquart’s approval.[1] According to court documents, the FBI and city police uncovered the crack ring while probing the August 24th murders.

Convictions[edit]

Azibo and Azikiwe Aquart both maintained their non-involvement with the murders and proceeded to trial in New Haven on all charges. Jury selection began on March 1, 2011[2] and continued though April 19, 2011.[11] Before the start of trial Azikiwe changed his not-guilty plea in regards to the drug-conspiracy charges, which warranted an immediate trial separation for prejudicial reasons from Azibo, who had not.[12]

According to the government’s trial evidence, Azibo Aquart, on the morning of August 24, 2005, assisted by Azikiwe, Efrain Johnson, and John Fitzgerald Taylor, entered Apartment 101 and killed the occupants by beating them with baseball bats. The government offered forensic evidence gathered from the apartment, including fingerprints and DNA evidence. Testimony from previously indicted and other un-indicted co-conspirators was also offered in support of the government’s case.[1] On May 23, 2011, the Connecticut jury returned a guilty verdict.[13] A penalty phase began on May 31[14] and ended June 15, 2011, in favor of a death sentence.[3]

The defense filed post-conviction challenges,[15] and Aquart’s four death sentences, three life terms, an additional ten years, and monetary fines were not officially imposed until December 17, 2012.[16] During this time, the legislature and Supreme Court of Connecticut had abolished the death penalty in that state.[17]

Two months after a jury determined Azibo Aquart would be sentenced to death, Azikiwe Aquart pleaded guilty to federal murder-in-aid-of-racketeering, and was sentenced on December 12, 2011, to multiple life sentences.

Challenges to Convictions and Sentences[edit]

Defense lawyers have said in court documents that key prosecution witnesses gave false testimony during Aquart’s trial, evidence presented in court was intentionally misleading, and improper comments were made by prosecutors during closing arguments. Federal prosecutors have denied the allegations.[10]

Cooperator Testimony[edit]

One of the federal government’s key witnesses was Lashika Johnson, who was a cooperating witness and the sister of one of Aquart’s co-defendants, Efrain Johnson. At trial the defense presented evidence challenging her credibility, including an admission that she had lied during her first meetings with the government in order to protect herself and that she had changed her story after being confronted about her statements.[18] In a bid for new trial and penalty proceeding, Aquart claimed that there was “newly discovered evidence” that Lashika Johnson “knowingly presented false testimony.”[19] The judge acknowledged that Lashika’s testimony was “very important,” but ruled that she had not committed perjury.[20]

On April 16, 2012, John Fitzgerald Taylor was sentenced to 108 months in prison for having pled guilty to three counts of murder-in-aid-of-racketeering. Taylor testified that, upon entering the apartment, both Aquarts went into the room James Reid and Tina Johnson were in and that Taylor and Efrain Johnson never touched any victim and that Efrain had not entered the room where James Reid and Tina Johnson were found.[21] At each of the trials, forensic evidence alleged to be Efrain Johnson’s DNA (found in the tip of a torn piece of latex glove that had been caught under duct tape binding Tina Johnson)[4] and a trace amount of DNA that John Taylor could not be excluded as a possible contributor to was put before the jury.[22] In both of Efrain Johnson’s trials, as well as at his February 28, 2014, sentencing, Efrain restated among other things, “I taped that lady up . . . ”[4]

There were further indications John Taylor could not have seen what he testified under oath to witnessing, including blood spatter evidence that seemed to contradict Taylor's account of the events.[21]

Lastly, male DNA profile was recovered from flesh found underneath Tina Johnson's fingernails. The government’s own expert, however, conceded that none of the charged defendants, and none of the other victims could have been a source for that DNA.[23]

Complex DNA Mixtures[edit]

One of the federal prosecutors who tried the case in an effort to vouch for the evidence, namely work done by the Connecticut State Crime Lab, made remarks to the jury that if another government witness, Rodney Womble, who immediately began working with authorities[24] had been involved, his DNA profile, which because he was a convicted felon, she argued, would have been stored in the National DNA Database, would have received "a hit."[25]

The defense objected to the prosecutor's remark that had Womble been involved, his DNA profile would have received "a hit." [49] At sidebar and in later filings for a new trial, the defense described all the DNA samples at the center of the case as "complex mixtures."[26] Complex mixtures involve DNA samples with two or more unknown sources and result in a profile that "superimposes multiple individual DNA profiles."[27] Complex mixtures, it was noted, cannot be evaluated or compared by the National Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and can only be evaluated subjectively by individual lab technicians.[26]

During the latter part of the Aquart prosecution it was revealed the Connecticut State Lab’s practices had not been up to acceptable standards, having failed not one, but two preliminary federal audits,[28] resulting in a temporary loss of accreditation.[29]

Appeal[edit]

In 2018, in a ruling written by Judge Reena Raggi, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Aquart's conviction but vacated his sentence.[30]

  1. ^ a b c d e “Bridgeport Drug Dealer Sentenced to Death for Murdering 3 People in 2005,” (Dec. 17, 2012, Monday 8:52pm EST) U.S. Fed News   
  2. ^ a b United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 637 (Transcript of Jury Selection, Day One) (March 1, 2011 D.Conn)
  3. ^ a b United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 936 (Jury Verdict in Phase Two of Trial) (June 15, 2011 D. Conn)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Tepfer, Daniel. (March 1, 2014) “Man Gets 50 Years in Triple Murder Case” (http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/man-gets-50-years-in-triple-murder-case-5279295.php) Connecticut Post   
  5. ^ a b c Mayko, Michael P. (November 11, 2006) “Suspects Face Drug Charges” (Pair Probed in 3 Killings) Connecticut Post, p.A1   
  6. ^ Mahony, Edmund H. (April 4, 2009, Saturday) “Triple Homicide: Dealers Could Face Death” (Two Charged in Gruesome Bridgeport Killings) The Harford Courant CT News, p.A10   
  7. ^ a b Mayko, Michael P. (June 28, 2007) “Grand Jury Indicts 3 in Brutal Triple Homicide” Connecticut Post   
  8. ^ Mayko, Michael P. (December 21, 2005) “FBI, Police Claim 7 Ran Crack Ring” Connecticut Post   
  9. ^ Tepfer, Daniel. (August 26, 2005, Friday) “Fatal Shooting Follow Triple Homicide” Connecticut Post, p.A1   
  10. ^ a b c Associated Press (December 17, 2012) “Connecticut Man Sentenced to Death in Three Killings” The New York Times
  11. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 751 (Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Janet Bond Arterton:FINAL Jury Selection as to Azibo Aquart) (April 19, 2011 D. Conn)           
  12. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 711 (ORDER OF TRANSFER in case as to Azikiwe Aquart only; Case reassigned to Judge Stefan R. Underhill for all further proceedings) (March 31, 2011 D. Conn)
  13. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 833 (JURY VERDICT as to Azibo Aquart (3) Guilty on Count 1sss,2sss-8sss) (May 23, 2011 D. Conn)
  14. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1160 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceedings: as to Azibo Aquart Type of Hearing: Trial Transcript, Volume XXII) (May 31, 2011 D. Conn)   
  15. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 829 (MOTION Motion for Mistrial by Azibo Aquart) (May 22, 2011 D. Conn)   
  16. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1196 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceedings: as to Azibo Aquart Type of Hearing: Transcript of Sentencing Hearing. Held on 12/17/12) (December 12, 20121 D. Conn)   
  17. ^ Tepfer, Daniel (May 26, 2016). “Connecticut Supreme Court upholds abolishment of death penalty,” Connecticut Post   
  18. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1177 (RULING) (December 6, 2012 D. Conn)   
  19. ^ Staff Report (December 11, 2012, Tuesday) “No New Trial for Triple Murderer; Judge Denies Request of Man Facing Death Penalty; Court” Hartford Courant, ct.now, p.B5   
  20. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart, CA No. 12-5086, dkt. No. 119 (Brief for Defendant-Appellant) (Jan 14, 2015 2d. Cir), p 150
  21. ^ a b United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1145 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceedings) (May 4, 2011 D. Conn), pp 2311-2323, 2502-03   
  22. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1148 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceeding) (May 11, 2011 D. Conn), p. 3190-91   
  23. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1150 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceedings) (May 13, 2011 D. Conn), pp. 3446-51   
  24. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1141 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceeding) (April 28, 2011 D. Conn), p. 1383; see also United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1142 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceeding) (April 29, 2011 D. Conn), pp. 1510-11   
  25. ^ United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 1156 (TRANSCRIPT of Proceeding) (May 20, 2011 D. Conn), pp. 4326-28
  26. ^ a b United States v. Azibo Aquart et al., 06-cr-00160-JBA, dkt. ent. 829 (Motion for Mistrial) (May 22, 2011 D. Conn)   
  27. ^ Smith, Jordan (September 7, 2016) “White House Report Concludes That Bite-Mark Analysis is Junk Science,” www.theintercept.com
  28. ^ Korvner, Josh (August 9, 2011) “Feds Criticize State Police Crime Lab Operations: Case backlogs, understaffing, DNA evidence control, among issues cited,” Hartford Courant
  29. ^ Staff Report (August 18, 2011) “Forensic Lab Loses Accreditation; Will Get It Back, State Official Says; After Federal Audits,” Hartford Courant, p. B8
  30. ^ Mayko, MIchael (December 25, 2018). "Death row reprieve in Bridgeport triple murder". Connecticut Post.