WILKES-BARRE — The suspect in a Pittston homicide had his trial pushed back to September after prosecutors requested more time.
Stephen Jamal Spencer, 31, was set to stand trial this week for the July 2017 shooting death of 32-year-old Christopher Williams outside the Saints & Sinners Irish Pub in Pittston.
Spencer’s trial was going to start Monday, but jury selection was pushed to Tuesday while attorneys argued over a late addition of an expert witness for the defense team.
The witness would be testifying that Spencer used reasonable force when shooting Williams after an altercation at the bar.
Prosecutor Thomas Hogans argued the testimony would amount to testifying about Spencer’s guilt or innocence, while defense attorney Jonathan Pike said the expert’s opinion would be on the use of force only.
Luzerne County President Judge Richard M. Hughes III ruled he could not determine the validity of the witness’ testimony without the witness being there to testify, Pike told a reporter after court was adjourned Tuesday.
On Monday evening, prosecutors alerted Hughes of their intention to make a motion for continuance, saying they need more time to prepare for Pike’s expert witness. Pike gave prosecutors a file summarizing what the expert would be testifying about on Monday morning.
On Tuesday, the defense attorney offered no objections to the prosecution’s motion for a delay. Hughes rescheduled Spencer’s trial date for the week of Sept. 10.
According to prosecutors, Spencer shot and killed Williams after an altercation at the bar that reportedly started when Williams’ cousin, Marty Williams, refused to shake Spencer’s hand.
Previous testimony pointed to racial tension in the bar that night, with Marty Williams testifying he does not “socialize with anybody not my race.”
Pike maintains Spencer acted in self-defense, saying he was cooperative with officers and that he had a permit to carry the firearm.
Spencer, of Pittston, remains locked up at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility while he awaits his new trial date.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan