The murder trial of Army clerk Jeffrey Louis Fowlkes recessed Friday after impassioned testimony from the defendant's relatives and military superiors, one of whom called Fowlkes "one of the finest soldiers I've ever come across."
"He sets a great example. He's very manly," said Sgt. Wordell Cary, whose testimony brought tears from several of Fowlkes' family members in the audience. "He's still a soldier as far as the military is concerned."
Cary, who supervised Fowlkes at the Fort Lee Army base in Petersburg, Va., said Fowlkes has always impressed him as "extremely peaceful, the kind of soldier who you wouldn't know was around unless you needed him."
Fowlkes, 23, is charged with murder, attempted murder and manslaughter in connection with a May 20 shooting spree at a Glenelg party in which one man was killed and another critically injured by gunfire.
The jury will hear closing arguments in Howard County Circuit Court on Monday.
Appearing in full dress Army uniform, Fowlkes himself testified Thursday that he "was trained to handle paperwork" as a personnel administrator in the Army and has never wanted to be anything but a "peacemaker" throughout his life.
Defense attorney Richard Winelander has maintained throughout the trial that Fowlkes fired several shots into the air from a 9mm pistol in an attempt to restore order at the party after a fight broke out. Fowlkes' better judgment was clouded because he was heavily intoxicated, Winelander said.
However, several witnesses testified that after firing the warning shots, Fowlkes turned the gun on the crowd, apparently out of dislike for people who live in rural areas.
But Fowlkes and Winelander contend that a rural-urban rift had nothing to do with the tragedy, which began when Fowlkes went to his car and retrieved his unregistered handgun.
Winelander described the attempt to make peace by firing a gun as "a stupid act," although he has steadily maintained that Fowlkes had no intention of harming anyone.
"I fired over the crowd's head, but then I realized I was shooting kind of low," said Fowlkes, who appeared stoic on the witness stand. "I was just trying to keep the peace so everybody could keep enjoying themselves."
Killed was Joseph T. Taylor, 21, of Cooksville, who was shot in the back by a bullet that has become the source of much dispute between Winelander and prosecuting Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell.
O'Donnell has pointed to the fact that police crime technicians found only 9mm shell casings on the lawn of the Brenda Burgess residence, at which the party was held. The home is in the 13100 block of Triadelphia Road.
The bullet or shell that struck Taylor entered his back and exited through his neck. A 9mm bullet was recovered a short distance from where he died, although an FBI ballistics expert testified that he could not determine if Taylor's wounds were made with a 9mm bullet.
Winelander has attempted to show that a variety of weapons were fired at the party and that the bullet that killed Taylor did not come from Fowlkes' handgun.
One partygoer, Rodney Jones of Baltimore, said he was hit in the foot with a shotgun pellet during the shooting. Jones and two other witnesses said the sound of the gunfire seemed to vary, as though different handguns and shotguns were being fired.
However, witnesses testified that they saw no other person firing a gun at the party.
Relatives and friends testified that Fowlkes, a Baltimore resident, was always looked up to in his West Baltimore neighborhood and has never been known to drink liquor or lose his temper.
Some witnesses, however, reported that Fowlkes fired into the crowd at the urging of a group of friends he arrived with from Baltimore. Comments such as "Spray those country (expletive)" were made by Fowlkes' friends while he fired the gun, some witnesses said.
A police detective also testified that Fowlkes referred to Howard County as "Ku Klux Klan territory" while he was being arrested. Police arrested Fowlkes after pulling over his car on Route 144, a few miles from the party.
During cross-examination, O'Donnell asked Fowlkes, "Aren't you trained to kill (in the Army)?" to which he replied, "No, ma'am, I was trained to handle paperwork."
Fowlkes said his duties are mainly clerical, handling financial and personnel documents at the Virginia Army base. He is on standby status while awaiting outcome of the trial.
Lucille Foreman, Fowlkes' grandmother, testified that Fowlkes took a karate class and played football as a child but didn't like the sports because "he was always concerned about people getting hurt."
O'Donnell then asked Foreman whether she knew that Fowlkes, by his own admission, always carried a loaded 9mm handgun in his car.
"No, I didn't know that," Foreman said.