Judge: No photo T-shirts

WARREN – A judge set to hear an upcoming murder trial ruled Friday that surviving family members of the victim will not be permitted to wear any t-shirt or badge that carries the name or likeness of their dead relative in the courtroom.

In fact, Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice banned the shirts or any similar article of clothing in his courtroom, the Courthouse or grounds of the Courthouse.

The motion was filed recently by defense attorney Heidi Hanni, who represents Derrick Peete. He faces aggravated murder charges in the Nov. 12, 2012, shooting death of Marco Dukes, 32, of Warren.

Shirts memorializing murder victims have become commonplace in recent years. Murder victim’s family members don the attire at vigils and elsewhere to make others aware of the case.

Hanni successfully argued that the shirts could prejudice potential jurors hearing the case and prevent her client from having a fair trial.

The trial is scheduled for March 24.

Dukes’ mother, Darlene Dukes, who was hospitalized Friday said she was upset to hear the news. She and family members have worn the shirts to pre-trial hearings in the case.

Peete, 23, of Detroit, faces charges of aggravated murder with a firearms specification, tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property, attempted murder with a firearms specification and felonious assault, also with a firearms specification.

Peete and 27-year-old Dale Hatch were both charged in the Dukes’ murder during what police said was a major gun battle involving the illegal drug trade in downtown Warren.

Two of the charges, felonious assault and attempted aggravated murder, of which both men were indicted, are related to the shooting of Dukes’ cousin, Larry A. Smith, 29, who was wounded in the gunfire.

The shooting touched off vigils and community meetings over recent violence in the city.

Hatch meanwhile, pleaded guilty to an amended indictment charging him with involuntary manslaughter last week and is expected to be sentenced to 10 years in prison if he cooperates with prosecutors and testifies against Peete at trial.

Hatch, according to prosecutors, was carrying a stolen 9 mm pistol that jammed after he got one shot off. Peete is accused of using an assault rifle that caused most of the damage, killing Dukes, injuring Smith and penetrating a house on Elm Road N.E. that has since been demolished.

Police and prosecutors are unable to prove with ballistics evidence whether the one shot that Hatch fired hit Dukes or Smith.

Peete was sentenced to 17 months in prison last week by another judge who ordered that the time run concurrent with a 46 month sentence in federal court. Both those sentences were for drug offenses. In addition, Peete was ordered to forfeit more than $10,000 found on him during the traffic stop in Warren where drugs were found on him.