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Court questions admissibility of new testimony in Roberts case

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By Staff

The day before the murder trial for Alexander Roberts was set to begin, Circuit Judge John David Seay issued a stay in the trial until March 2, after prosecutors appealed his decision that evidence concerning recent allegations against Roberts was inadmissible.

Prosecutors say those allegations could amount to a confession.

A response filed in the case Thursday by the commonwealth shows that the prosecution had attempted to introduce testimony from Rita Vittitow regarding statements Roberts had allegedly made to her on or about Feb. 9 at Rebecca’s Pepperoni Grill.

While at the restaurant, Roberts spoke to Vittitow, who later spoke with police about the statements she said Roberts made to her. She said Roberts told her, “You got me if you’re into murderers, but I haven’t killed any n****rs lately,” or words to that effect.

In their response, prosecutors insisted, “This evidence is absolutely crucial to the commonwealth’s case, that it stands as a confession,” by Roberts, and is relevant to Roberts’ state of mind.

Vittitow’s interview was recorded and provided to the defense counsel, though the prosecution believes the defense already had that information.

The defense objected to the statements being introduced as evidence, claiming they were not relevant to the case and were inflammatory. They also objected to the introduction of the alleged use of a racial epithet.

“There is no legitimate purpose supporting its introduction other than to show Alex’s alleged bad character,” the defense writes. “It is difficult to envision in our society more harmful bad character evidence than introduction of evidence attempting to paint the defendant as a racist.”

In the defense’s motion to prohibit the introduction of Vittitow’s testimony, factual background was included. The defense states that on Dec. 1, 2015, during a drug deal arranged between Roberts, victim Rasheed Wickliffe and witness Trent Lovvorn, Wickliffe began to chase Roberts and Roberts “stabbed Wickliffe, causing his death.”

The defense writes, “Alex has asserted that he acted in self-defense. There is no evidence in discovery that this incident was racially motivated.”

The defense argues that the statement is irrelevant to the question in the case, “which is whether or not Alex stabbed Rasheed Wickliffe in self-defense.”

Furthermore, the defense questions the validity of Vittitow’s testimony.

But the prosecution argues that Roberts’ alleged statements directly conflict with his claim of self defense by calling himself a “murderer” and that those statements would indicate a lack of remorse for Wickliffe’s death.

“The jury must be allowed to hear this confession,” the prosecution writes.

In an order signed Friday by Judge Seay, the court granted the defendant’s motion to the extent of prohibiting Vittitow to testify to Roberts’ use of an inflammatory racial term. But the court reserved ruling on the admissibility of any other part of Roberts’ alleged statements to Vittitow pending further order of the court.