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MURDER WITNESS' 'DEAL' ATTACKED DRUG DEALER'S LAWYERS SAY $200,000 WAS PROMISED

Prosecutors' attempts to hide the deal given the key witness in drug baron Donald "Sly" Green's murder trial were "inexcusable" and border on misconduct, Green's attorneys told a judge Thursday.

Attorneys Paul J. Cambria and Cherie L. Peterson told Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury the $200,000 "windfall" promised to James A. Wright, 43, the former caretaker of a Buffalo church, affected his credibility and should have been an issue decided by the jury in Green's trial.

Green, 33, was convicted of murder in November 1989 in the death of Larnell Cottrell, 28, who was shot Oct. 25, 1988, on Krettner Street.

Cambria branded information provided before the trial on Wright's financial arrangements as "misleading and incomplete."

The "arsenal of information" on the financial package would have provided defense attorneys "a fertile field of attack" on whether Wright was telling the truth, Ms. Peterson said.

Wright's finances were "extremely bleak" before he became involved in the Green case, and the government deal "could affect his credibility," Cambria said.

Joseph J. Marusak, the chief prosecutor in the case, said the district attorney's office would not comment on the defense claims. Prosecutors will file a written response with the judge in about a week.

Drury is expected to rule this month on defense motions for a new trial, based on the contention that prosecutors failed to outline the Wright deal. Drury already has rejected defense complaints about improper actions by jurors in the trial.

During a three-day hearing in October, authorities disclosed that Wright, now in the federal witness protection program, has cost the federal and state governments more than $85,000 since he, his wife and two children were placed in protective custody in August 1989.

The hearing also confirmed defense claims that before the Green trial, authorities promised Wright that $100,000 to $200,000 would be spent to protect him.

Cambria and Ms. Peterson said Wright gave a statement to an investigator for the Green defense team in the summer of 1989 that contradicted his claims in court about having no trouble identifying Green as Cottrell's murderer.

For months before the trial, Green's lawyers sought information about any deals offered to witnesses and were told only that Wright was in "temporary" protective custody.

Before he became a witness, Cambria said, Wright and his wife "were not making ends meet" on their combined annual salaries of $16,000. They owed back taxes on their $8,500 East Side home, had overdue water and utility bills of about $1,200 and drove an old car.

After the deal, Wright drove a new car, lived in all-expenses-paid hotel rooms and private homes and received $150 a week in spending money -- "with no taxes to boot," the lawyer added.

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