Under aggressive cross-examination yesterday, the key witness in one of the worst homicide cases in recent Boston history admitted he lied to police repeatedly about the night of the killings, was a heavy drinker who had shot people, and had owned too many guns in his life "to keep track of.''
Prosecutors are relying on Kimani Washington, a 36-year-old career criminal, to help convict Dwayne Moore and Edward Washington of the September 2010 slayings of four people following a home invasion in Mattapan. The victims included a mother and her 2-year-old boy.
Tensions were already high yesterday in the small, packed courtroom, when a man sitting in the galley hissed "rat'' and "snitch'' at Kimani Washington. The witness stared calmly as court officers dragged the unidentified man from the courtroom as he yelled, "He's a . . . rat bastard!''
During yesterday's testimony, Kimani Washington made a series of conflicting, sometimes shocking statements about himself and his role in the crime that threatened to punch holes in the prosecutors' case.
Kimani Washington admitted to defense attorneys that throughout his life he had followed a street code: Lie to police.
"You get called as a witness for the prosecution, you lie, correct?'' asked Moore's lawyer, John Amabile.
"Yes,'' Kimani Washington replied.
That did not change when he became a witness in this murder case, Amabile and Edward Washington's lawyer, John Cunha, tried to show yesterday during about 5 hours of grueling cross-examination during which they also assailed his character.
Kimani Washington acknowledged on the stand that he had agreed to testify against Edward Washington, his cousin, and Moore, his two alleged accomplices in the robbery, in exchange for a reduced sentence of 16 to 18 years in prison.
"You could say, yes, I was making a deal to save my life,'' Kimani Washington said.
Defense attorneys say that Kimani Washington lied to authorities about his role in the crime to avoid life in prison, but Assistant District Attorney Edmond Zabin has told the jury to listen carefully to his testimony, some of which will be backed up by other witnesses.
Kimani Washington, who has a string of assaults and drug arrests on his record, testified Tuesday that he and Moore planned to rob Simba Martin, a drug dealer, of cash and cocaine. He said they recruited Edward Washington as getaway driver.
Kimani Washington admitted he had changed his story several times during interviews with police: He said the guns used in the crime were his and could have his fingerprints on them, but in a later interview he told investigators that he had no idea how one of the weapons ended up in his home.
He also admitted he threw out the clothes he wore to the robbery, a detail he said he did not share with police during initial interviews.
The defense also played a tape of a police interview in which Kimani Washington lied to investigators, telling them that Marcus Hurd's sport utility vehicle, which Kimani Washington had taken from the crime scene, belonged to his friend Jaywon.
"I made him up,'' the witness acknowledged yesterday.
But he was steadfast in his assertion that he left the scene before the killings began.
"I'm willing to accept the responsibility for my actions,'' he said. "But I'm not willing to accept the responsibility for the actions of others.''
Kimani Washington has admitted he forced Marcus Hurd, the sole survivor of the attack, and Martin, 21, to strip at gunpoint. He said he and Moore followed the two men into Martin's apartment, where they stole a safe containing drugs, $1,800 in cash, and a flat-screen television. Kimani Washington said he also stole $200 from Levaughn Washum-Garrison, Martin's friend, who had stayed that night on Martin's couch and was also killed.
Kimani Washington said that at one point, his cousin and Moore left the apartment and he assumed the robbery was over, so he left.
Yesterday, Amabile pointed out that Kimani Washington testified he had left all five victims alone in the apartment with Moore and Edward Washington nowhere in sight, which raised the question of why the victims did not escape.
Kimani Washington, who wore a lime green button-down shirt and tie, stayed fairly calm through the day, but the exchanges between him and the lawyers were sometimes testy.
"What part of 'I don't know exactly what I said' is a problem?'' he said when Amabile asked him to recall his precise words to Martin and Hurd when he forced them to strip.
When defense attorneys were not trying to poke holes in his version of events, they attacked him personally, pointing out some of his street names such as Billy Dead Serious and Point God, a moniker Kimani Washington said he gave himself.
Amabile asked him about his criminal past, his five children by different women, the six women he once put down on a jail visiting list as his fiancees, and his drinking.
Amabile also asked Kimani Washington if he had ever been a pimp.
"I assisted women in selling themselves,'' he said.
Cunha asked about a fight Kimani Washington had with his cousin months before the shootings. During direct examination, Kimani Washington testified he had beaten his cousin badly, but the two "patched things up.''
Under cross-examination, however, Kimani Washington revealed the fight had been a lot more violent, with him sticking his cousin in the face with a broken cane.
"You were trying to kill him, weren't you, sir?'' Cunha asked, his voice booming.
"C'mon, man,'' Kimani Washington replied. "I wouldn't try to kill my cousin.''
Cunha said Edward Washington steered clear of his cousin after that, and a family meeting was called to confront Kimani Washington about his drinking.
Kimani Washington refused to call it an intervention, but he said: "No one liked me drinking. I didn't like me drinking, but I drank.''
At one point, after Cunha repeatedly asked Kimani Washington if he had ever struck his female cousin, Judge Christine McEvoy grew impatient.
"Let's get back to the case on trial,'' she said.