Whitney Grey Defense Opening 02/21

Good morning, I am Shang Sharpe on behalf of the Defendant Whitney Grey. I am joined by co-counsel, Maya Tatum-Lattimore, Latrice Tillis and Shaquara Dobbey.

The night the Pub burned down was the night my client’s dreams turned to ashes. Ladies and gentlemen, if you had encountered Whitney Grey on the third of July, you would have had the pleasure of meeting a hard working, studious young woman, who dreamed of being a fire investigator. Yet by July 5th her life was in ruins. She had been wrongfully accused of lighting a fire she had nothing to do with, targeted by the sloppy investigation of Eaton Bahr, a man with a long held grudge against her. Accused of a crime that may well have been a mere accident. We believe that by the end of this case, you will clearly see that in a desperate effort to assign blame for the fire, the State has charged Whitney with a crime she had NOTHING TO DO WITH based on far fetched speculation and unconvincing evidence.

It will be the State’s job to prove each element of its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet you will hear no hard or direct evidence showing Whitney was in any way involved with a the fire at the Pub. The State will present no eyewitness testimony, no fingerprints at the scene of the fire, no DNA, no credible motive or logical means. What it will present is innuendo based on rash accusations and a sloppy investigation.

We will learn that the sole reason Whitney was targeted here is her behavior as a young teenager over a decade ago. But my client is not on trial for her teenage indiscretions, she is on trial for arson of the Pub. Whitney readily admits she made a huge mistake when she set two small grass fires as a youth. But you will see that the shameful experience has influenced every move she has made in her life since then. She took full responsibility for her actions, and she served her community in an effort to give back. She was forthright and honest about her immature bad judgment when she got her job at the pub. But honesty may have not been the best policy here, because Fire Marshall Bahr used his knowledge of her past as the weak foundation for his conclusions in the present.

Fire Marshall Bahr will testify that the pub was an accident waiting to happen, but he nonetheless gave his friend Lane O’Brien a year to make it safer by installing more sprinklers. Everyone you hear testify today will agree that before the fire, the pub was constructed of old dry wood and filled with highly flammable material, which was improperly stored. Six months before the fire, the owners were told of the dangerous conditions, yet no one took action other than raising the insurance limits. You will hear that many things could have started this fire, from an errant spark from the grill to the subbasement heater. And learn that several people other than Whitney had greater motives and opportunities to start the fire, if indeed it was caused by human hand. But the Fire Marshall considered none of these possibilities.

You have been asked to come here today to see that justice is served. The only way justice can be served in this case if for you to send a strong message to the State that solid objective evidence is required to convict someone of a crime. An innocent young woman should not her life destroyed based on speculation.