YOUNGSTOWN Woman: Shakoor 'wanted me to lie'
The woman sold her blood to send Shakoor money but said she won't lie for him.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Tori Griffin says she still loved Jamal Shakoor, even if he'd killed her new boyfriend.
She sent Shakoor letters in jail professing her love for him, her desire to have sex with him again and to one day marry him and start a family.
She even sold some of her blood so she could send Shakoor money while he was in jail awaiting trial.
"You are my soul mate," she wrote in the letters. "If there is anything I can do to help my man, I'm going to do it."
But now that the trial is here, Griffin says she won't lie for Shakoor, even though she says he asked her to.
Shakoor, 20, of Early Road, is on trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, accused of murdering 31-year-old Benjamin Reeves of Bennington Avenue during a lovers-triangle quarrel outside Ursuline High School on Jan. 16, 2000.
Griffin told jurors she and Shakoor dated for about two years, beginning while both were in high school. They broke up in 1998 but remained friends and lovers, she said.
Beginning with lies: When she began dating Reeves in 1999, she concealed that relationship from Shakoor. She said she did not want to hurt Shakoor or make him angry.
Defense attorney James Gentile portrayed Griffin as a conniving woman who played the men against each other until their bitterness and frustration erupted in gunfire. Griffin, though, said that was not the case.
Reeves had no animosity toward Shakoor, but Shakoor had threatened to kill Reeves, she said.
Reeves had taken Griffin to get her car, which broke down near Ursuline. When they left his house to go get her car, Shakoor followed them in his car to the school, where all three got out of the vehicles, she said.
Griffin said that's when she finally told Shakoor that they were finished and she was interested only in Reeves. After a brief argument with Shakoor, she turned to walk away. When she turned back around, Shakoor had a gun in his hand, she said. He shot Reeves in the head, then stood over him and shot several more times, she said.
She said she did not see whether Reeves had lunged toward Shakoor, which is what Gentile said happened.
Taken to jail: Gentile said prosecutors coerced Griffin into testifying by having her kept in the county jail before the trial. He said prosecutors became frustrated when she ignored subpoenas and letters to meet with them, had her picked up by deputy sheriffs and taken to jail.
But Griffin said she was jailed for her protection because Shakoor's relatives had threatened her. She was eventually removed from the jail and kept in an undisclosed motel with deputies assigned to guard her.
Griffin said she wrote love letters to Shakoor after the shooting because she still had feelings for him. The letters went unanswered at first, but eventually Shakoor started to write back.
In one of his letters, Shakoor asked Griffin to "change up" on prosecutors and tell them he didn't shoot Reeves, she said.
"He wanted me to lie for him," Griffin said. She said it was difficult for her to testify against Shakoor, but "it's the right thing to do."
Testimony was to continue today in the courtroom of Judge James C. Evans.