Murder trial to begin for Atlantic City brothers convicted in federal drug gang case
Mykal and Malik Derry already are serving federal life sentences for their lead roles in an allegedly violent Atlantic City drug-trafficking ring known as Dirty Blok. But Wednesday they will go on trial in Atlantic County Superior Court for murder. The brothers are accused in the Feb. 10, 2013, fatal shooting of Tyquinn James outside Red Klotz’s liquor store in the 1300 block of Adriatic Avenue. What they didn’t know at the time was that calls and text messages they made to one another were being intercepted by the FBI, who was investigating the gang Mykal Derry was later convicted of leading. The texts include the brothers talking before and after the killing, including seeing the location of TY — identified as James, according to testimony by FBI Special Agent Christopher Kopp gave during a motion this week. “First homicide of the year. Head shot,” Mykal Derry’s then-girlfriend texts to him at 11:08 p.m. the night of the killing, read Kopp, who was lead investigator in the case. “He good. He acting like it’s nothing,” Derry replies, allegedly talking of his younger brother. “This (N-word) is a true Derry.” Whether those text messages and calls will be heard by the jurors in the case was one of several motions heard by Superior Court Judge John Rauh this week in preparation for the trial. Arguments began Monday morning, with attorneys for the brothers arguing that the case should be dismissed since both men were given extended sentences due to their alleged involvement in the killing. James’ fatal shooting was mentioned as a factor by U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman in giving the brothers life sentences. Their co-defendants all got shorter terms, the longest being 20 years, which is what the Derrys each faced. But Chief Assistant Prosecutor Erik Bergman successfully argued that the brothers were not tried for murder, and therefore the trial should proceed. While the judge agreed the trial’s outcome will not change the fact that the two men will remain in prison for life, they have not yet been convicted nor acquitted of murder. While the two trials have been ruled separate cases, much of what the murder trial will included will echo the federal case. Rauh is allowing testimony Mykal Derry gave during the federal trial concerning the shooting. He also will let in statements Malik Derry made at the brother’s first court appearance two days after the killing. Malik, then 21, told the judge he had an affidavit, pulling out a folded up yellow legal paper. “I was just letting him go,” he told since-retired Judge Michael Donio. “He’s got nothing to do with nothing,” he said of his older brother at the time. That doesn’t mean Malik was taking responsibility, Joseph Liguori, argued this week. Liguori is Malik Derry’s fourth court-appointed attorney. Derry previously told BreakingAC that the others weren’t fighting for him. If he had refused Liguori, the state could have moved to have him represent himself. Mykal Derry has kept the same attorney, Ed Weinstock, throughout the case. Opening statements began Wednesday afternoon. The trial is expected to last at least a week.