DA drops third-degree murder charge against Michael White in Rittenhouse stabbing

Kristen Johanson
October 07, 2019 - 10:38 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A city judge has granted the district attorney's motion to drop the third-degree murder charge against Michael White, the man accused of fatally stabbing Sean Schellenger in July 2018 near Rittenhouse Square. 

Schellenger's family say they were told late last week the district attorney wanted to drop the charge and proceed to trial only on voluntary manslaughter. The family strongly opposed the move.

Judge Glenn Bronson granted the request, which also included adding charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. 

Linda Schellenger, the victim's mother, burst into tears and briefly left the courtroom Monday morning.

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The family's lawyer wanted to be heard on the matter, but the judge denied that request, basically saying charges are up to the DA.

Prosecutors say White threw the knife used in the stabbing onto the roof of a building and hid his phone to elude investigators. And, they say, when he finally did give the cellphone to investigators, he purposely locked it.

They say detectives have a special program used to unlock phones, which they used, and when they got into it, they found messages White wrote about wanting to stab people.

The judge allowed the phone to be used at trial, against the defense attorneys' request.

White's defense attorneys have argued their client stabbed the victim in self-defense after he was called the N-word. The defendant is black, and the victim was white.

The defense also withdrew their motion to have potential jurors asked in-depth questions about implicit bias during jury selection, but they asked the judge if he could add it to his jury instructions. Judge Bronson denied it for now, but asked to be shown more case law on the matter.

Jury selection was expected to take a couple days, but it wrapped up Monday afternoon.

Opening statements will begin Thursday. The trial is expected to last through the middle of the month.