Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim claim self-defense in the 2010 beating of a black teen, claiming the teen was holding a nail-studded board when they got out of their vehicle and stopped the teen as he walked. The brothers' legal wrangling has postponed the trial six times so far. As the trial was finally set to begin, the brothers claimed that media comparisons of their case to the case of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida has poisoned the jury pool, and therefore the court should move the trial out of the Baltimore area – delaying the trial again. But then the brothers agreed to go forward with the trial – but without a jury.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
Avi and Eliyahu Werdesheim, Jewish brothers accused of beating a black teen while guarding their Park Heights neighborhood, withdrew a request to change the court venue Tuesday and elected to move forward with a Baltimore trial by judge, waiving their right to be heard by a jury of their peers.
They had previously complained that media coverage of their case, coupled with comparisons to the Florida shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down by a zealous neighborhood watch captain, made it impossible to impanel a fair jury in the city.
Eliyahu Werdesheim, 24, told Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Pamela White, however, that the brothers "feel very confident in [her] judgment." Opening statements in the trial, which could stretch into next week, are set for Wednesday morning.…
The prosecution has a recording of a 911 call that appears to support the victim's story and refute Shomrim's. It mentions 3 to 4 cars with comminty watch members, and says that the Shomrim members were on top of a black youth pinning him to the ground.
The defense is seeking to exclude the recording.
The judge has not yet ruled.
The defense is also trying to claim Avi Werdesheim, the younger of the two brothers, wasn't actually there when the beating took place:
…Much of the afternoon was taken up by testimony from Phil Jacobs, a former Baltimore Jewish Times reporter who interviewed the brothers on Dec. 6, 2010, after Eliyahu had been arrested, but before Avi was alleged to have been involved. The younger brother was charged in January 2011.
Jacobs wrote an article that day based on the interview saying Avi was in the car with Eliyahu when he confronted Ausby, but the published version did not mention the younger man. It's unclear who removed the name, though Jacobs said it was the paper's practice to show articles to sources for fact-checking purposes when warranted.
In an email sent months later to Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins, well after Avi was charged, Jacobs attached the draft version of the article, noting that "it's not going to win many dinner invitations with the Jewish community," but adding that his conscience required him to reveal the truth.
Jacobs, who said he is acquainted with the Werdesheim family, told the court that the brothers believed they would get more balanced and favorable coverage from him than from the mainstream local media, which had thus far produced a "great deal of bad press" on the incident.
Defense attorneys questioned how he knew Avi was in the car, claiming Jacobs made a false assumption when Eliyahu used the word "we" to describe the day's events. But Jacobs said he recalled Avi's name's being explicitly mentioned at least once and the rest was implied.
White ultimately found Jacobs' account credible and said the interview could be used to show a tacit admission by Avi of his placement in the car.
It doesn't look good for the Werdesheims.