Shortly after midnight on April 23, 1989, after an evening of drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and ingesting cocaine, Wayne Hunter and 20-year-old John Weist III drove from Haddon Township to nearby Camden, New Jersey in search of more cocaine. Weist directed Hunter, who was driving, to a street corner where Weist had bought drugs in the past. When they arrived, Weist signed to a person who approached and told them to pull over.
The man then went into an alley between a house and a tavern. When the man returned, he stuck a pistol through the window of the car and said, “Give me all your money.” Weist shouted, “Go!” Hunter accelerated, the gun discharged and Weist was shot in the heart. As Hunter sped away, he struck another car and kept going. He took Weist to a hospital in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where Weist was pronounced dead.
Hunter led police to the Time and Place Lounge in Camden where he said the shooting occurred. He said he remembered the bar because it had a cyclone fence around it. However, there was no alley next to the lounge as Hunter had described.
Hunter, who was near-sighted and was not wearing his glasses that night, told police the gunman was wearing an aqua green or turquoise colored jacket or sweatshirt and possibly a knit hat. He described the shooter as 6 feet tall and 150 pounds.
The following day, police showed Hunter a photo lineup and he selected the picture of 19-year-old Anthony Ways, the only person in the eight-person lineup wearing a hat. Ways was known as “Mancakes” and was the leader of the Hill Top Posse, a street gang whose territory included the Time and Place Lounge. He had been previously convicted of possession and distribution of narcotics.
Ways was arrested on April 25, 1989 and charged with murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, armed robbery and weapons violations.
Several days later, Donna Carter, a cocaine addict who said she had purchased drugs from Ways, told police that she saw Ways come to the car with 19-year-old Bryant Anderson, who fired the shot that killed Weist.
Anderson and Ways went to trial in Camden County Circuit Court in September 1991. Todd Johnson, a friend of Ways, testified that he saw Ways at the Time and Place Lounge on between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on April 22 and that he was still there at 12:30 a.m.—shortly before the shooting.
Margaret Witcher, a bartender at the Time and Place Lounge, testified that Ways had been at the bar and that he left at approximately 2 a.m.
Hector Cintron testified that his vehicle had been broadsided by Hunter's vehicle as it ran a red light. According to Cintron, the accident occurred at an intersection that was one block away from the Time and Place lounge.
Donna Carter testified at trial and recanted part of her earlier statement. Instead of saying that Anderson was the gunman and was with Ways, she testified that only Ways was there and that he was the gunman.
An assistant medical examiner testified that the bullet that caused Weist’s death had been fired from a .44 Magnum handgun.
The defense contended that the shooting actually took place next to Wally's Bar, which was two blocks away from the Time and Place Lounge. Wally's Bar was next to an alley as Hunter had described, but it did not have a cyclone fence.
Franklin Shaw testified for the defense that he saw Franklin King shoot into Hunter's car with a .44 Magnum pistol before the car sped away down the street. A detective testified that Shaw reported seeing King shoot into Hunter's vehicle with a .44 Magnum, but the statement was not recorded because Shaw appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
King was called by the defense and testified that he committed armed robberies approximately "once or twice a month" and he usually victimized drug dealers. King admitted that he had acquired a .44 Magnum on April 22, which he hid on property in Camden. However, King claimed that when he went to his hiding place on April 24, the gun was missing.
Ways testified in his own defense and denied any involvement in the crime. He said that on the night of April 22, he had attended a family get-together, drove to a movie, and later went to an after-hours bar in Lawnside, New Jersey.
On September 26, 1991, a jury acquitted Anderson and convicted Ways of murder, armed robbery and weapons charges. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1995, Ways filed a post-conviction petition seeking a new trial. A hearing was held five years later in 2000. Tyrone Williams testified for the defense that sometime between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. on April 23, 1989, Franklin King asked him if he wanted to buy a .44 Magnum pistol. Williams said he asked King if he had “any bodies on the gun at the time,” and that King replied, “Yes.”
Williams testified that King said that he shot somebody that night and opened up the gun to display the cylinder with one spent shell. Williams said he refused to buy the gun.
Donna Carter testified that she had falsely incriminated Ways in her initial statement to the police because she was high and was afraid that she would be charged with drug possession, prostitution, and other offenses. Carter claimed that she was told what to say by the assistant prosecutor. She testified that at the time she only was interested in using drugs and did not want to get locked up. She also claimed that police officers planted eight bags of cocaine on her before she spoke with the prosecutor, and then, presumably because of her cooperation, let her keep the drugs.
Johnson also recanted his trial testimony, saying that he thought he was providing an alibi for Ways when he falsely testified that Ways was in the Time and Place Lounge on the night of the shooting.
Leonard Hall, who was a retired Camden police officer at the time of the shooting testified that Franklin King was brought to his house by a group of about eight to 12 young men, several of whom were members of Ways’ gang. At that time, before Hall had any information about the gun used in the crime, King stated, “I'm not the only one in Camden with a .44 Magnum.” Hall called the Camden police and related that he might have a suspect in a homicide. Hall said that a patrol officer picked up King and that he was questioned and released.
Vincent Williams testified that he witnessed the shooting and that the shooter was not Anthony Ways. Williams said he saw two men running up to cars trying to sell drugs and that one of them shot into the car when Hunter and Weist pulled up. Williams admitted that he had known Ways all his life, but that he did not come forward to the police because he “was on the run” and did not want to get caught.
Ways’ cousin, Thomas Ways, testified that while he and Franklin King were in state prison and the county jail together, King twice admitted to him that he shot Weist.
Franklin King testified that he admitted killing Weist to at least one other person, but insisted that was a false claim and that he did not kill Weist. King confirmed that around the time of the shooting he possessed a .44 Magnum, that he tried to sell it to a few people, and that when asked by one prospective buyer whether there was “a body on the gun,” he had replied that there “might be.”
King testified that Ways was innocent, saying that “someone else did it. It wasn't this guy.”
The judge conducting the hearing asked King if he “knew the trigger guy,” and King replied, “I do know who did it.” However, the judge did not ask King to identify the gunman.
The judge denied the motion for a new trial, ruling that Carter, Johnson, King and Ways’ cousin were not credible. The judge found that while Tyrone Williams was credible, his testimony would not have convinced the jury to acquit Ways. In 2003, the New Jersey Appellate Division upheld the decision.
However, in 2004, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the decision and ordered a new trial for Ways.
The Supreme Court said portions of the newly discovered evidence, when put in context with the evidence at trial, sufficiently implicated King in the shooting and likely would have resulted in Way’s acquittal.
Ways was released on bond in June 2004 while awaiting a retrial. On October 19, 2005, the prosecution dismissed the murder, robbery and weapons charges after Ways pled guilty to charges of tampering with witnesses for talking to two men who claimed to be eyewitnesses to Wiest’s killing and hindering his apprehension by not surrendering to police after he learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest. He was sentenced to 6½ years in prison, but remained free since he had already served 14 years,
In 2008, Ways settled a wrongful conviction lawsuit for $280,000.
– Maurice Possley
"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members."
— Coretta Scott King