A criminal grand jury has indicted six people for the fatal 2010 shooting of a German woman visiting The City.
Mechthild Schröer, 50, was walking with her husband at Mason and Geary streets near Union Square on Aug. 8 when prosecutors say she was caught in a gunbattle between rival gang members.
Prosecutors say the suspects began shooting at each other outside a party that spilled out onto the street as dozens of people scattered for cover.
Four men and one juvenile — Phillip Stewart, 19; Delvon Scott, 20; Willie Eason, 19; Marcus Blueford, 19; and Raheem Jackson, 17 — were charged in May with Schröer’s murder, as well as attempted murder and gang charges. A sixth man, Gethsemane Pita, 18, was charged as an accessory to murder.
Despite the charges, a secret grand jury proceeding was later begun.
And after about two months of testimony, that jury handed down indictments Tuesday on the same charges, Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming said. At a brief hearing Wednesday, Fleming dismissed the original charges in place of the indictment. The suspects are set to be arraigned on the new counts Friday morning.
The case can now proceed without a preliminary hearing, although a trial should not take place for at least several months.
Outside court, attorneys disagreed about the reason for the lengthy and nonpublic grand jury, which essentially duplicated the original counts.
Fleming noted the size and complexity of the case, and the fact that there were six suspects, some of whom refused to waive their constitutional right to have a preliminary hearing in 60 days. He said that could have forced him to call the same witnesses in separate preliminary hearings.
“We just felt that we were taking the necessary steps to have all the individuals tried together in one case,” Fleming said. “It’s important for the complete picture to be shown.”
Yet Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Young, who represents Scott, said criminal grand juries — during which defense attorneys are not present and witnesses may not be cross-examined — are “fundamentally unfair” to defendants.
“It’s a completely one-sided show,” said Young, adding that she felt the grand jury was initiated because a preliminary hearing before six separate defense attorneys would have been “far more challenging” for the prosecution.