Donte Thomas was sentenced to death by the State of Pennsylvania for the murder of a witness. According to court documents Donte Thomas would shoot and kill a man who was set to testify against a friend of Donte who had been accused of murder. Donte Thomas would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Donte Thomas 2022 Information
Parole Number: 5210U
Date of Birth: 03/19/1977
Height: 6′ 00″
Current Location: PHOENIX
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Here, our review of the testimony presented at trial shows that the evidence was sufficient to support a first-degree murder conviction. Dr. Edwin Lieberman, an assistant medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Gaymon/Allen, testified that the victim sustained four gunshot wounds, to the upper arm, abdomen, armpit, and left flank, respectively, the last of which caused damage to numerous internal organs including the heart. N.T., 9/12/07, at 5, 9, 13, 15, 18, 24, 30–31. Dr. Lieberman testified that the victim’s death was the result of the multiple gunshot wounds. Id. at 34.
Several eyewitnesses to the shooting were standing on a street corner with a group of men, including the victim, when the shooting started on the opposite corner. Two of these eyewitnesses, Maurice Gaymon and Stanley Battle, cousins of the victim, testified that they observed Appellant walk down the street and then, upon reaching the corner, pull out a gun and fire multiple shots. N.T., 9/10/07, at 139–42, 198, 205–06; N.T., 9/11/07, at 60–69. Both testified that they saw Appellant’s “whole face.” N.T., 9/10/07, at 142; N.T., 9/11/07, at 69. Mr. Battle testified that he was “just staring at [Appellant]” as Donte Thomas was shooting, and that Appellant was shooting at the victim, firing a total of approximately twelve to fifteen shots. N.T., 9/11/07, at 66, 69, 73, 77. After the shooting stopped, both of these witnesses saw the victim lying on the ground. N.T., 9/10/07, at 156–57; N.T., 9/11/07, at 78. Subsequently, both witnesses identified Appellant in a police photo array as the assailant, and they also identified Appellant in court. N.T., 9/10/07, at 139, 167–69; N.T., 9/11/07, at 63, 85–88.
Malik Adams, who at the time of the murder was a 15–year–old friend of the victim, was also present at the murder scene. He gave a statement to police, identified Donte Thomas in a police photo array as the assailant, and testified for the Commonwealth at Appellant’s preliminary hearing. N.T., 9/13/07, at 54, 56, 61–62, 74–75, 85. In Adams’s statement, he told police that Appellant was the only one at the scene with a gun, that Appellant was the only one shooting at the victim, and that Appellant was the individual whom he saw in the passenger seat of a black car that drove by the street corner shortly before the shooting. Id. at 190–91. During the June 13, 2006 preliminary hearing, Adams identified Appellant in court as the individual who had chased and shot the victim. Id. at 211–12.
However, when the Commonwealth called Adams as a witness at Appellant’s trial, he declined to identify Appellant in court as the individual who had killed the victim, and he repudiated his prior identification of Appellant, his statement to police, and his testimony at Appellant’s preliminary hearing, saying that he did not remember those events. Id. at 61–91. Although Adams identified the signature on his statement and on the photo array as his signature, he claimed not to know how it got there. Id. at 56–60, 70–80. Adams’s statement and preliminary hearing testimony were read into the record at trial. Id. at 183–92, 207–49.
Another witness, Samuel Taylor, had known Donte Thomas for many years and was in prison with him following the victim’s murder. N.T., 9/12/07, at 154–56. While they were in prison together, Taylor testified, Appellant told him that he had murdered someone for a friend of his named “Gus” because the victim was going to testify at Gus’s upcoming murder trial. Id. at 157–58. In addition, Appellant asked Taylor for a “favor,” to wit, to kill the cousin of a witness against Appellant. To this end, Appellant gave Taylor the phone number of his girlfriend. Id. at 158–59; see N.T., 9/14/07, at 59.
Consistent with Taylor’s testimony, other evidence showed that Donte Thomas had visited Glass/Gus in prison on two dates, October 5, 2005, and January 31, 2006, the latter date being only three days before the murder. N.T., 9/12/07, at 57–58. When Appellant was arrested on April 19, 2006, he acknowledged, in his statement to police, that he had visited Glass/Gus in prison several times, including on January 31, 2006, and that he had purchased a cell phone for Glass/Gus. Id. at 96–97, 107–08, 110. Appellant also acknowledged in his statement that Glass/Gus “was worried about his upcoming court case and the witness going [sic] to testify against him,” but Appellant denied that Glass/Gus had asked him to do anything about the witness and he denied knowledge of or involvement in the death of Gaymon/Allen. Id. at 110–12, 114.
Donte Thomas advanced an innocence defense, centered on the testimony of Tamika McMurren, his girlfriend and mother of three of his children, who claimed that Appellant was unable to run or to use his right hand because of debilitating gunshot wounds that he had suffered in August 2003 and October 2005. N.T., 9/14/07, at 15–18, 30–31, 34, 39–42. McMurren testified that Appellant was unable to fire a gun or to light a cigarette with his right hand, although there was nothing wrong with his left hand. Id. at 39–40. Appellant’s gunshot injuries had required surgery, and the surgeon who had operated on Appellant’s right arm on October 31, 2005, testified for the Commonwealth after Ms. McMurren’s testimony. N.T., 9/17/07, at 23 et seq. Specifically, the surgeon testified that Appellant had use of his right hand two days after the surgery, and he would not have expected that ability to change. Id. at 39. The record indicated only a single postsurgical visit approximately a week after Appellant’s surgery, so the surgeon was unable to provide any further information as to Appellant’s subsequent ability to use his right hand. Id. at 36–38.
This evidence is sufficient to establish that Appellant shot and killed Gaymon/Allen with malice and with specific intent to kill. The evidence showed that Appellant chased the victim, repeatedly fired a gun at the victim, and with at least one bullet, struck the victim in a vital part of his body. We now turn to Appellant’s specific claims.