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A Lancaster man serving decades for killing a young father four years ago will not get a new trial, a local judge ruled this week.
Stefon Landing fatally shot 22-year-old Devonte Gantt during a drug robbery on a Lancaster city street on Jan. 4, 2015. Landing tried to steal marijuana from Gantt and shot Gantt when he fled. Gantt was found dead in a backyard.
Landing, serving 22½ to 45 years in prison for third-degree murder and related counts, has appealed for a new trial, claiming his trial lawyer was ineffective.
Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker denied that request, finding Landing’s claims likely would not have impacted the jury’s findings.
Landing argued, among other things, that his lawyer failed to: object to a prosecutor’s assertion that Landing planned to rob Gantt; poll the jury at the verdict; request the jury be instructed on and consider a manslaughter verdict.
President Judge Reinaker found:
- The prosecutor’s theory was based on Landing, according to his own testimony, having a loaded firearm – cocked and with the safety off.
- Polling the jury (requesting each member to verbalize their verdict individually) would have served no purpose in changing the guilty verdict.
- A manslaughter instruction would have gone against the defense’s theory: that Landing fired in self-defense.
Landing, Gantt and Amos Clay III met in the 700 block of High Street for an arranged drug buy. Landing told acquaintances that he planned to rob Gantt, but was surprised that Clay had come along with Gantt for the transaction, according to testimony.
Landing tried to snatch the marijuana from Gantt and shot Gantt. Clay returned fire, wounding Landing. Landing shot Clay in the leg.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman won the trial verdict. Assistant District Attorney James Reeder represents the Commonwealth in post-conviction matters.
Lancaster city police Detective Nathan Nickel filed charges.
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