Alishah Pointer was 22 years old when she was kidnapped, tortured, and shot to death in a “horrific” and prolonged act of violence in Ohio in 2021. On Monday, a court in Cleveland declared a mistrial for three of the six people accused of brutally ending her life.
Anthony Bryant, 19, Brittany Smith, 33, and Hakeem-Ali Shomo 31, had been on trial since March 6 over charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and felonious assault.
Their trial came to an end early on Monday, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas said in a message sent to Law&Crime.
“Prior to the trial resuming this morning, there was a motion for mistrial,” the court’s statement said. “Court staff had sent a procedural communication to the parties, which was inadvertently sent only to the prosecutors. Because this could be considered ex-parte communication, out of an abundance of caution, the Court granted the mistrial and the Judge recused himself from the case.”
In a statement to Shaker Heights-based CBS affiliate WOIO, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office attributed the mistrial to a “communication error.” Shaker Heights is an affluent suburb located roughly 20 minutes east-southeast of Cleveland.
Judge John Russo had been overseeing the jury trial.
Prosecutors believe the trial process will begin again within the next couple of days, according to Cleveland-based Fox affiliate WJW. The case has reportedly been reassigned to Judge Janet Burnside.
Law&Crime reached out to the court and prosecutor’s office for additional details but no responses were immediately forthcoming.
Three other people charged in connection with Pointer’s death have pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony.
Nathaniel Poke Jr., 23, Portria Williams, 31, and Destiny Henderson, 18, are set to testify against the co-defendants when their trial restarts. Poke and Henderson pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Williams pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy.
The three witnesses are currently slated to be sentenced on March 27. That date could be pushed back due to Monday’s mistrial.
The six individuals believed to share culpability for Pointer’s death each allegedly dropped in and out of the broader crime at different points in time over the course of the day on Nov. 4, 2021.
Prosecutors allege Henderson, Williams, Poke Jr. and Hakeem Ali Shomo kidnapped two women as part of a reprisal plot because they believed that Pointer’s boyfriend had killed Aminjas Shomo on Nov. 2, 2021. The two kidnapped women were then allegedly forced to help the four locate Pointer and lure her into their car. The first two kidnapping victims were then allowed to leave, police said.
Once Pointer was captive, Poke left the residence, prosecutors allege. Smith and Bryant arrived at the location later and did not take part in the initial kidnappings, authorities claim.
Shomo, Smith and Bryant then allegedly beat and tortured Pointer in an effort to extract information about Aminjas Shomo’s death.
After that, police believe, defendant Shomo left the residence on his own. Then, Henderson, Smith, Williams, and Bryant allegedly forced Pointer into a vehicle and drove her to the burned-out, since-demolished Savannah Avenue home where she spent her final terror-filled moments.
Williams and Bryant are alleged to have fired the shots.
“There were plenty of opportunities for these people to reconsider what they were doing and for somebody to make the right decision and stop this,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said when the indictments were filed. “This went on for hours, and this poor girl was tortured and brutalized. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and we will hold those individuals who have done this responsible.”
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