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Suspect in Cosby killing gets public defenders

markhasev May 1, 1997
Web posted at: 2:52 p.m. EDT (1852 GMT)

In this story:

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Public defenders were appointed on Thursday for the man accused of murdering Bill Cosby's son because the family of defendant Michael Markhasev cannot afford to pay private attorneys who were working the case.

Markhasev will now be represented by Henry Hall, who has been a public defender for 20 years and has worked many capital cases, and Harriet Hawkins, who has been with the county public defenders office since February 1994 and was a federal public defender for six years previously.

Markhasev was brought to court Thursday but his arraignment was postponed to May 13 to give his new lawyers time to prepare the defense.

Report: Suspect's friends saw shooting

Also Thursday, USA Today reported that Markhasev was with two friends who witnessed the January 16 shooting of Ennis Cosby after he pulled off a highway to change a flat tire.

It was the first indication that others may have been with Markhasev that night, the newspaper said. The story cited court documents and a witness' relative.

ennis cosby

"The USA Today story came as a surprise to me," outgoing defense attorney Charles Lindner said outside court. "I'm curious as to how they obtained the documents they claim to have."

Co-counsel Darren Kavinoky denied that the defense leaked the documents. The attorneys' comments were limited because of a gag order in the case.

The paper reported that both witnesses -- Eli Zakaria, 23, and Sara Ann Peters, 21, both of Huntington Beach, California -- were questioned and released and that officials would not say whether they are suspects.

Hunt for murder weapon?

USA Today said court documents also confirm that police have two other witnesses -- Christopher So and Michael Chang of Los Angeles -- who say they helped Markhasev, an 18-year-old Ukrainian immigrant, search for the murder weapon days after the killing.

Markhasev, arrested on March 12, has been held since then pending trial.

He pleaded innocent to initial charges of murder with special circumstances of attempted robbery and use of a firearm during a crime.

Subsequently, the Los Angeles district attorneys office obtained a grand jury's secret indictment that will remained sealed until the arraignment.

Lindner says Markhasev's trial would last three to six months and cost the family $300,000.


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