Smith returns to witness stand

Staff reports
Marland D. Brooks

The defense attempted to discredit one of the prosecution’s most important witnesses Friday in the trial of Marland Brooks, who is charged with murdering a 26-year-old Corning man during a drug-related robbery last June.

Samantha N. Smith, Brooks’ girlfriend and the only other witness to the killing of Clark VanEtten, was back on the witness stand Friday in Steuben County Court for cross - examination. She testified for the prosecution Thursday after being promised a 10-year sentence for robbery in exchange for truthful testimony.

Smith testified Clark VanEtten and Brooks fought the morning VanEtten died. On direct-examination, she said Brooks initiated the struggle, but she admitted on cross-examination that she was high at the time of the killing and had previously given different accounts of what transpired.

Defense attorney David Morabito claims Brooks, 39, killed VanEtten in self-defense after VanEtten initiated the fight. District Attorney Brooks Baker said Brooks attacked VanEtten because he wanted money.

Baker said Brooks and Smith went to VanEtten’s Park Avenue residence during the early morning hours of June 18 to get money from VanEtten, a married father of two. They needed money to repay a debt -- the day prior, Smith stole money from another man and used it to buy crack cocaine.

VanEtten had given Smith money in the past, so she contacted him and promised to deliver him cocaine in return for $200, according to Baker.

Smith arrived at VanEtten’s home with Brooks and another man, and she went inside alone, according to authorities. She did not have any drugs to trade, and VanEtten refused to give her any money, authorities said.

After awhile, Brooks went inside, where the three shared several beers, Baker said. Sometime during the conversation, Brooks went into VanEtten’s kitchen and took a knife from a butchers block, Baker said.

Soon after, Brooks walked over to VanEtten, who was on the couch, and punched him, Baker said. VanEtten attempted to fight back, at which time Brooks stabbed him twice in the heart, Baker said.

After the stabbing, Brooks stole VanEtten’s wallet and fled, Baker said.

Morabito claims VanEtten had the knife and attacked Brooks first. He said Brooks disarmed VanEtten and jabbed him once. He suggested that Smith may have also stabbed VanEtten after Brooks fled the home.

The trial will resume today.