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October 17, 2012

Double murder suspect may tell 'his side of the story'

LAWRENCE - Facing life in prison without parole, Johan Saint Clair may testify in his own defense in the La Guira nightclub double murder trial this morning.

Armed with a semi-automatic handgun, Saint Clair is accused of opening fire on Sept. 6, 2010 and killing a man and woman in the 205 Broadway club. The blast of gunfire into the packed club at midnight was retribution against “joloperos” or home invading and torturing thieves who previously robbed Saint Clair of a large amount of cocaine, prosecutors say.

But Saint Clair, through his defense attorney, maintains his innocence. “He has told me he was not the shooter and had nothing to do with it,” said Russell Sobelman, a Lynn attorney.

Saint Clair said the real shooter fired into the nightclub and then made him drive the getaway car. Saint Clair was captured after a police chase that ended off Interstate 495 near the Lowell-Tewksbury line.

“It’s not fair the real shooter and his friend got away that night,” Sobelman said yesterday. “He’s being held responsible when he’s actually a victim.”

When the trial started a week ago in Lawrence Superior Court, Sobelman said Saint Clair intended to testify in his own defense. He said he planned to meet with him yesterday and go over all the evidence and testimony so far. Prosecutor James Gubitose told Judge Richard Welch he intends to rest his case this morning. Sobelman can start calling defense witnesses immediately after, if he chooses to.

“I don’t know if anything has changed his mind ... I know he wants to tell his side of the story,” Sobelman said.

In court yesterday, forensic witnesses told jurors that bullets and casings taken from La Guira and from the body of murder victim Juan Esteban Suazo-Soto matched a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun Saint Clair allegedly fired in the nightclub that night.

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