Raphael Stewart Convicted of First Degree Murder for 1998 Killing

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November 18, 2014: Today, exactly 16 years to the date that he committed his crimes, defendant Raphael Stewart was convicted of First Degree Murder, Criminal Conspiracy, Attempted Murder and Possessing an Instrument of Crime for the November 18, 1998 killing of Darris Cuthbert and shooting of Omar Johnson.

Raphael Stewart and his co-defendant Jaime Kirnon believed that Darris Cuthbert and Omar Johnson had robbed their drug house. After an argument, Stewart shot Cuthbert five times- killing him. Kirnon shot Johnson eight times, but due to quick action by Philadelphia Police, who were one block away when they received the radio call, Johnson survived his injuries. An eyewitness to the murder, Danny Milton, removed a gun from Omar Johnson’s waistband and tried to take him to the hospital. Police arrived quickly, and Milton was taken to the Homicide Division instead to give a statement. Both Johnson and Milton identified the defendants as the shooters. After the defendant was arrested, Johnson was unlocatable, and Milton was presumed dead. As a result the case was nolle prossed in 2000.

However, Homicide Detective Joe Centeno did not believe that Milton was dead and continued to search for him. On April 10, 2001, Detective Centeno found Milton on the very corner where the murder had occurred in 1998. Charges were reinstated against Raphael Stewart and Jaime Kirnon. Kirnon was arrested in 2001, tried and convicted; Stewart was unlocatable and a bench warrant issued for his arrest. Stewart was finally arrested in September of 2013.

After less than an hour and a half of deliberating, jurors convicted Stewart of First Degree Murder and all related charges. The Honorable Steven Geroff immediately sentenced him to Life in prison without the possibility of parole. Deputy District Attorney Jodi Lobel and ADA Brett Furber successfully prosecuted this case.