Attorneys gave opening statements in Charles Wilhite's new murder trial on Tuesday. The Springfield man is getting another shot at freedom after being convicted of first-degree murder more than two years ago.
Wilhite and co-defendant Angel Hernandez were convicted in 2010. Since that time, a key witness recanted his statement identifying Wilhite as the shooter, and the 30-year-old was granted a new trial.
During Tuesday morning's opening statements, the Commonwealth told the jury that although Wilhite is the only one on trial this time, they will be presenting lots of evidence about his previous co-defendant and the connection that links both to the murder.
"The theory of the murder, ladies and gentlemen, from the Commonwealth is what we call a joint venture," said assistant district attorney Blake Rubin. "The theory, ladies and gentlemen, is that both Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Wilhite together killed Alberto Rodriguez."
Wilhite's defense attorney asked the jury to listen carefully throughout the trial.
"I only ask you one point at this thing in time, ladies and gentlemen, and that's to keep an open mind throughout all the proceedings in this case," said defense attorney William O'Neil. "Don't make up your mind after hearing from one witness or old exhibit."
At this point, Wilhite has been in jail for more than three years. Throughout that time, his friends, family and members of the community have formed an organization titled Justice for Charles to fight for his freedom.
"This is his second time facing a natural life sentence without the possibility of parole," said Wilhite's aunt, Vira Cage. "So this is our opportunity right here in Springfield to make it right this time, and that's what our chant is no crime no time justice this time."
The trial will resume Wednesday morning in Superior court.
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