STANARDSVILLE — A judge has ruled that former defense counsel for a Charlottesville man convicted in the shooting deaths of three people in Greene County did not err in not using an alibi defense during his trial. However, that may not be the end of the case.
Taybronne Altereik White, now 34, was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Brian Roberts Daniels, 26; Dustin Knighton, 25; and Lisa Hwang, 26, all of Charlottesville. All three were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds on Octonia Road in the early morning hours of May 3, 2011. White is currently serving a 76-year sentence for their murders.
White appeared back in Greene County Circuit Court in June on a writ of habeas corpus petition, alleging that his previous defense team failed to call his sister, Jasmin, during the trial. White’s current attorney, Norman Lamson, argued that Jasmin White would have provided an alibi for his client. Jasmin White testified on June 11 that her brother was asleep on her sofa on the night of the murders.
Taybronne White was previously represented by Edward Ungvarsky and Michael Hemenway, who maintain that Jasmin White was not a credible witness to present at trial. Both testified that her demeanor was “hostile and uncooperative” and that her stories had changed. Ungvarsky also said that phone calls made between family members after the murders occurred could have been seen by a jury as damning evidence, and if Jasmin White testified, those phone calls would have been brought up.
In his denial of the petition, Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer said: “A court reviewing a defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must indulge a strong presumption that counsel’s conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.”
Durrer added that the decision on whether to call a witness is a “tactical decision.”
“In this case, the court accepts the testimony of Ungvarsky and Hemenway in its entirety and disregards any conflicting testimony from other witnesses. Specifically, the court holds that both Ungravsky and Hemenway made a tactical, reasonable and professional trial decision that calling [Jasmin] White would have opened the door to the admissibility of the telephone records of the entire family that showed frenetic telephone contact almost immediately after the homicides occurred in Greene County,” Durrer wrote.
Lamson said he plans to file objections to the decision with the Virginia Supreme Court.