MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The fate of a rapper who confessed to a cold-case shooting could rest on details as minute as the color of his victim's jacket and whether or not his three bullets hit their mark.
Trevell Coleman, once an up-and-coming rapper who performed under the handle G.Dep, faces a single charge of murder in the second degree for the 1993 slaying of John Henkel. The case was gathering dust until Coleman walked into Harlem's 23rd Precinct on Dec. 15, 2010, intending to unburden himself of a crime he said he committed as a teenager.
At the time, Coleman thought he was confessing only to shooting a man in a robbery attempt. When police investigated his claims, they told Coleman that shooting had turned fatal.
Now, defense attorneys are claiming crucial details in the case don't link Coleman's confessed shooting to Henkel's death, and that perhaps investigators have pinned the wrong cold case on the fallen rapper.
In a videotaped confession, Coleman admitted to firing three shots from a .40 caliber semi-automatic weapon during an attempted robbery near the Johnson Houses at Park Avenue and 114th Street. Henkel was shot three times at close range with the same caliber weapon.
"This is a fairly straightforward case," Assistant District Attorney David Drucker told jurors Tuesday afternoon during opening arguments of Coleman's trial. "It doesn't come from eyewitnesses or DNA evidence; it comes from the mouth of Trevell Coleman himself."
But defense attorney Tony Ricco told jurors police had contorted Coleman's attempt at "redemption" to fit an unsolved crime.
"Watch how we go from ‘I shot a guy who was either Spanish or white, blond hair, no facial hair with a green plaid coat on' to having his details rearranged to 'I shot a man with brown hair, with a tan coat on and a beard,'" Ricco told jurors. "You have to decide whether or not he’s guilty of the crime charged, not cleaning up the cold case files."
Coleman had already attempted to confess once before, only to be turned away by police, Ricco said.
"When he went to the precinct to tell them about what he had done, they told him to go away," Ricco said. "He didn't forget about it, like the police department did."
In the early months of 2012, detectives combed through years of old crime data in an attempt to match the shooting with incidents reported between 1989 and 2000.
"Only one case matched the description," Drucker said. "And it was the John Henkel shooting."