A prosecutor asked for a first-degree murder verdict yesterday as the trial began for a soldier from Baltimore accused of shooting into a crowd at a birthday party May 20 in rural Howard County, killing one partygoer and wounding two others.
"Jeffrey L. Fowlkes does not look like a killer sitting there in full-dress Army uniform," prosecutor Kate O'Donnell told the Howard County Circuit Court jury. "But the evidence will clearly establish that . . . it was no accident. It was murder."
Specialist Fowlkes, 23, a Baltimore resident stationed at Fort Lee, Va., is being tried on murder, assault and handgun charges.
Joseph T. Taylor, 21, of Cooksville died after being shot in the back at the party. The two other shooting victims have recovered from their wounds.
Ms. O'Donnell said the shootings occurred at a large party given by Bertha Burgess on Triadelphia Road for her two sons.
The prosecutor said the defendant came to the party with a group of friends from Baltimore.
When a fight broke out at the party, the prosecutor said, Specialist Fowlkes removed a 9mm semiautomatic handgun -- which she described as "an illegal, non-registered gun" -- from his car and "took a stance and fired repeatedly at the crowd several yards away."
Defense attorney Richard W. Winelander told the jury he would show that county police were "suppressing evidence" and that Specialist Fowlkes was not the only gunman at the outdoor party. He said that two men, whom he did not identify, were armed with a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver and also fired into the crowd.
Ms. O'Donnell, the prosecutor, said the jury should not give credence to Specialist Fowlkes' story to police when he was arrested the morning after the shooting.
She said he told police in effect: "Gee, did I kill somebody? I was being a peacemaker and was shooting in the air and someone pulled my arm down."
According to Mr. Winelander, however, Specialist Fowlkes "wanted to stop the fighting. . . . He discharged the firearm in the air, and people ran up and jumped on him and the firearm continued to discharge."
Mr. Winelander said the jury should ask itself whether the defendant "intended to kill someone or maim someone. I doubt that the evidence will show that."
The trial is being presided over by Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr.