Mistrial denied in '78 case of 5 NJ teens killed

By the Associated Press | November 17, 2011 | 10:35 AM EST

A teary-eyed Lee Evans walks to the defense chair during proceedings in the case in which he is charged with murdering five Newark teenagers more than 30 years ago, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in Newark, N.J. The teen's disappearance was once one of New Jersey's longest running cold cases. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Closing statements are possible after a judge on Thursday denied a request for a mistrial at the trial of a New Jersey man accused of burning five teenagers alive in 1978.

The request came Wednesday as the prosecution cross-examined the defense's first witness who described defendant Lee Evans as a trustworthy person and mentioned his brother.

The prosecutor asked whether the witness knew that Evans' brother was convicted of murder.

Evans' legal adviser said the reference was prejudicial.

The prosecution had rested its case after calling Evans' cousin, who pleaded guilty and received a reduced sentence for his testimony.

Philander Hampton described how he and Evans lured the boys to a vacant Newark home, nailed them in a closet and burned them alive for stealing a pound of marijuana.