A judge is weighing whether to limit evidence and testimony in the trial this month of a Fort Wayne man charged with murder in the 2016 shooting death of a teenager.
Devyn Yancey, 21, was charged with murder, felony murder – one committed in the act of another felony – and robbery, but jurors in January acquitted him of robbery and could not reach a verdict on the other charges.
The felony murder charge was dismissed after the trial, when prosecutors said they were “legally unable to proceed” on that count. They and lawyers for Yancey are now battling over what can be said during a retrial scheduled Aug. 25.
Yancey and Kevin Hamilton, then 17, met Brian Quintana, 18, Aug. 14, 2016, in a parking lot at Woodbridge Apartments on the city's northeast side. Yancey was angry about being shorted on an earlier deal for marijuana and planned to rob Quintana, according to witness testimony and court documents.
Hamilton shot Quintana in the chest during a struggle inside Quintana's car and was convicted in 2017 of murder, robbery and a sentencing enhancement for using a gun to commit the crimes. Now 21, Hamilton is serving a 74-year sentence at a prison in Pendleton.
At issue is whether testimony and evidence regarding the robbery should be allowed at the retrial.
Defense attorneys Sean Arata and Robert Gevers say no, arguing in court documents that doing so “would be highly improper and prejudicial to (Yancey).”
“Any evidence pertaining to the charge of robbery for which (Yancey) was acquitted is irrelevant to the issue of guilt or innocence for the events that occurred on the date in issue that may underpin the only remaining count for which the defendant will stand trial,” their request to block the evidence says.
Allen County deputy prosecutors Tom Chaille and David McClamrock filed a response Monday in Allen Superior Court agreeing that evidence “of the completion of the robbery of which (Yancey) was acquitted is not to be admitted on retrial on the charge of murder.”
But the attempt and planning of the robbery is fair game, they say.
Yancey's lawyers base their argument on a legal doctrine – collateral estoppel – that says earlier decisions in court are conclusive and can't be relitigated. Chaille and McClamrock argue that doesn't bar all evidence about the robbery.
“In (Yancey's) former trial, the issue of whether defendant completed the charged robbery was necessarily determined against the state by defendant's acquittal,” the response from prosecutors says. “The issues of whether (Yancey) planned a robbery and took steps to carry out the planned robbery – such as telling his co-perpetrator to bring a gun and to shoot the victim – were not necessarily determined against the state.”
That evidence is valuable in showing Yancey's intent, motive and purpose “in engaging in the conduct that directly led to the killing of the victim,” Chaille and McClamrock wrote.
Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent will decide what evidence and testimony can be presented. A decision has not been made, court records show.
Yancey faces up to 65 years in prison if convicted.