By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A federal trial begins today for a man charged with 12 murders, including the firebombing murders of six people in a North Philadelphia house in 2004. And the prosecution is seeking the death penalty for already-convicted drug gang leader Kaboni Savage and two co-defendants.
Kaboni Savage allegedly orchestrated the firebombing from prison, while co-defendant Robert Merritt allegedly set the fire with another man who is now cooperating with authorities.
Authorities say the motive was to intimidate and silence a witness against Savage, the fire victims included the witness’s mother and infant son, and four other family members.
Savage is already serving 30 years in prison for dealing drugs. During that trial, the prosecution played secretly recorded conversations of Savage making threats. Savage testified, admitted he had made threats, but said it was just talk.
Prosecutor: “Ever threaten to kill his daughter?”
Prosecutor: “And, when you threatened to kill his daughter, you meant it, at the time?”
Savage: “At the time, yes.”
Savage testified he was just venting, “Just vented, we just talking. This is our state of mind right now, us against them. I’m just in a perplexed situation, and I’m venting. It’s coming out.”
Savage and the co-defendants have pleaded not guilty and are expected to challenge the credibility of the witnesses.
And, because of the nature of the crimes and allegations Savage has repeatedly plotted and planned to kill witnesses and their families, and threatened jurors in another case, extraordinary measures are being taken to protect this jury.
The jury, already selected, will remain anonymous and they will be escorted to and from the courthouse from an undisclosed location.