A witness in the slaying of Washington housing activist Yulanda Ward refused to testify yesterday before a D.C. Superior Court grand jury investigating the case, but prosecutors said they will take "appropriate steps" later this week to gain his testimony.
The witness, James Garrett, who contends Ward was assassinated by opponents of her community housing efforts, said he refused to be sworn in by the grand jury unless he was permitted first to deliver a prepared statement on the case. When his repeated demands were denied, he said, a court bailiff forcibly ejected him from the grand jury room.
Prosecutors, who contend Ward was shot and killed during an apparent robbery attempt, have a number of "appropriate steps" available to them to gain Garrett's testimony, including seeking a court order compelling the testimony, reissuing a subpoena or negotiating informally with Garrett.
The grand jury is investigating the Nov. 2 slaying of Ward, who was shot while she and friends were waling in the 2800 block of Gainesville Street SE. Police investigators say Ward was shot by one of several assailants who stopped the group in what appeared to be a holdup attempt.
Garrett and other of Ward's supporters, however, contend it was a politically motivated murder and police have not properly investigated the case.
Garrett said that he and three others involved in an independent investigation were subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury and asked to bring the results of their probe. Garrett said that by demanding that he appear before the grand jury, law enforcement authorities were now attempting to "stifle" the independent investigation.
Four men have been charged in Ward's murder: Gary Wallace Threadgill, 18, of 3086 Stanton Rd. SE; Jacob Stoney, 19, and his brother Mark Stoney, of 2813 Buena Vista Ter. SE; and James Lewis Pannell, 20, of 2832 Hartfort St. SE. Three other men were originally charged in the case, but the U.S. Attorney's office dropped those charges earlier this month.