Ammons Testifies

FORT LAUDERDALE A teenager raised a baseball bat high over his head in court Thursday to show a jury how another youth took a savage swing at a sleeping homeless man who died when his skull was crushed.
Joey Griffith, 19, stood behind the still blood-spattered park bench brought into the courtroom to demonstrate how 45-year-old Norris Gaynor was assaulted in 2006. Griffith said he watched as Thomas Daugherty raised the bat with both hands and swiftly brought it down towards Gaynor’s head.
“I saw what happened,” Griffith said. “I saw Tom Daugherty start to swing.”
But under aggressive cross-examination from Daugherty attorney Michael Gottlieb, Griffith admitted he turned and ran before he saw any blows struck.
“Did you see him hit Mr. Gaynor on the head?” Gottlieb asked.
“No,” Griffith replied.
Daugherty, 19, and 21-year-old Brian Hooks are on trial for murder and attempted murder in the attacks on Gaynor and two other homeless men. One of the nonfatal attacks was captured on surveillance video and broadcast around the world, helping lead authorities to Hooks and Daugherty.
Griffith was also along that night but was never charged. A fourth member of the group, 21-year-old William Ammons, pleaded guilty to assault charges and is expected to testify in the case next week.
Defense attorneys contend that the group never planned to kill anyone and that Hooks and Daugherty are guilty of no more than assault. They face life in prison if convicted of the murder charge.
Griffith, 16 at the time of the attacks, said he never took part in any assaults and that he was “scared from the start” about what was going on. But defense attorneys repeatedly confronted Griffith with past sworn statements giving various versions of events, including whether he actually saw Daugherty hit Gaynor with the bat.
“I don’t remember every detail,” Griffith said. On another occasion he explained why he initially failed to tell police that Ammons had shot Gaynor with a paintball gun. “I didn’t lie, I just left it out,” he said.
One of Griffith’s statements Thursday nearly triggered a mistrial. Defense lawyers said it was the first time he had said Hooks and Daugherty told him they went back to hit Gaynor a second time because he saw them trying to “ditch the bats.”
The lawyers argued for mistrial on grounds that prosecutors had failed to disclose that testimony prior to trial, leading jurors to think the pair had a motive to want Gaynor dead. Circuit Judge Cynthia M. Imperato found no violation and the trial continued.