The Albany Times Union by Robert Gavin - January 30, 2012
ALBANY, NY — On the morning of April 30, Dhoruba Shuaib took the exam to be an Albany police officer — a test he would pass. Within several hours, the 19-year-old would be on a basketball court at Hoffman Park in Albany where, according to prosecutors, he helped now-17-year-old Jah-Lah Vanderhorst stab Tyler Rhodes, a 17-year-old member of the Albany High School track team who lost his life that evening. Shuaib is not accused of being the stabber. Rather, the prosecutors contend he restricted the movements of Rhodes, which allowed Vanderhorst to stab him. They also allege Shuaib was handed the murder weapon by Vanderhorst, then handed it back before Vanderhorst mortally wounded Rhodes. Opening arguments began Monday in Shuaib's second-degree murder trial before acting Supreme Court Justice Dan Lamont in Albany. "But for this defendant's actions Tyler Rhodes would be alive today," Chief Assistant District Attorney David Rossi told jurors, as family members of both Rhodes and Shuaib looked on. The incident was video-recorded by a cellphone camera. The video is expected to be shown to the jury at some point Monday. Vanderhorst will be tried separately. Rossi said Rhodes and Vanderhorst had a past; he said Vanderhorst had thrown bricks at Rhodes. And two days prior to the stabbing, the prosecutor said, Vanderhorst chased a jogging Rhodes with a knife. He said Vanderhorst was "on a mission" to stab Rhodes. Rhodes had even told his mother he might have to stab Vanderhorst in the leg, if necessary, telling her, "This isn't going to end until one of us is dead," Rossi told jurors. "Tyler was at his wit's end," he said. He said Rhodes and Vanderhorst met each other at the park at 7 p.m. on April 30. Rhodes wanted a regular fight to end the problems between the two — but did have a switchblade given to him by a friend, Rossi said. Rossi said Vanderhorst tried to stab Rhodes, but had difficulty doing so because the teenager was athletic and quick. That's where Shuaib came in, Rossi said. He said Shuaib flanked Rhodes and restricted his movements like a "pick" in basketball. He said Vanderhorst, at one point, gave the knife to Shuaib, who later gave it back to him. He said Vanderhorst stabbed Rhodes in the heart. As Rhodes ran after Vanderhorst, Rossi said, Shuaib struck him in the head. Rhodes collapsed and died. The prosecutor said Shuaib ran away and removed his shirt, but was caught a few blocks away. Rossi, who spoke for 12 minutes, was followed by Shuaib defense attorney Cheryl Coleman, who blasted the allegations as so untrue they should make the jury angry. She said her client had no motive, no opportunity and was simply one of several people on the court. She said he struck Rhodes because he saw Rhodes was armed with a knife and running toward Vanderhorst. In a 30-minute opening, she called the case against Shuaib a "crock!" She said Albany police later kept Shuaib shackled to the floor of a station from the early evening until 4 a.m. She said the police twisted his words as he was "spinning his head." She said the video would show her client does not deserve to be on trial, and that his life was altered that night as well. "He's a good kid. He's not guilty," Coleman said. Jury selection, which began Thursday morning, wrapped up Friday. If convicted, Shuaib faces 25 years to life in prison.