A mistrial has been declared in the case of a Buffalo man who is accused of shooting four people in one night, killing one of them, in August 2016.
Jaylin Wiggins, 19, faces a murder charge in the death of Laron Watkins, plus three counts of attempted murder, plus assault and weapons charges. An Erie County Court jury had heard two days of testimony before Judge Michael Pietruszka declared a mistrial on Friday.
The judge said the trial could not proceed because an error had been made in the presentation of some evidence identifying Wiggins as a suspect in the case. A new ruling allowing that type of evidence to be admitted in court went into effect in July 2017, according to the judge, but would not be retroactive to when the evidence was collected.
The start of the trial already had been delayed by one day last week to allow prosecutors time to locate a key witness, who has since been found.
Also last week Wiggins rejected a proposed plea offer that could have allowed him to plead guilty to manslaughter rather than the murder charge and avoid the possibility of a 50-years-to-life sentence if he is convicted of all the crimes as charged.
Wiggins is accused of going on a violent spree the night of Aug. 6, 2016, shooting and severely injuring a man on Maple Street and, less than an hour later, finding Watkins at a gathering in nearby Sperry Park and shooting him in the neck at close range, killing him almost instantly. Wiggins then allegedly fired into the scattering crowd at the park, wounding two people, before he himself fled.
He was arrested the next morning when he appeared in court on a warrant in another criminal case and has been jailed ever since. Prosecutors speculate that Wiggins knew he was going to jail and decided to "settle some scores" beforehand.
Wiggins denies being the gunman that night and his attorney, Leigh Anderson, contends that it is a case of mistaken identification.
Wiggins next is set to go on trial April 3 in a robbery case from March 2016 and his murder trial has been rescheduled for April 17.