Jury Finds Teen Not Guilty Of Shooting Man

December 23, 1990|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

A story in the Dec. 23 edition of the Anne Arundel County Sun on the acquittal of Keith Lomax incorrectly stated that he was found innocent of all five charges. The jury deadlocked on one count of assault and battery, but Assistant State's Attorney William C. Mulford II agreed to drop the charge after Lomax was found innocent on the other four. The charges were in connection with the shooting of Donald O'Neil Smith, 24, of Hillsmere Shores.

The Anne Arundel County Sun regrets the error.

The day after Darryl Downs was gunned down outside an Annapolis apartment, a jury found a teen-age resident of the same complex innocent of another shooting there last March.

After deliberating for two hours, the 12-member jury returned with a verdict of not guilty Friday on all five charges against Keith Lomax, 18, of the 1900 block of Copeland Street.

Lomax was accused of shooting Donald O'Neil Smith, the 24-year-old son of a county police lieutenant, during a brawl in the recreation center parking lot.

Smith testified on the first day of the trial that he drove to Bywater March 14 looking for cocaine to support a monthly habit. While he was trying to buy $40 worth of the drug, Smith said, a crowd of people surrounded the car and attempted to rob him.

Before he could escape from under the rocks and bottles hurled by the crowd, Smith was shot in the back. The Hillsmere Shores resident, now paralyzed from the chest down, still has the bullet lodged in his spine.

Assistant State's Attorney William C. Mulford II called witnesses during the three-day trial who identified Lomax as the gunman. He also argued that a palm print on Smith's car proved Lomax was involved, even though the teen-ager told police he wasn't there and knew nothing about the shooting.

Lomax did not take the stand.

But the jury found the evidence too weak to convict Lomax on counts of assault with intent to murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to maim, assault and battery and use of a handgun in a violent crime. The jury foreman read the not guilty verdict shortly before 6:20 p.m. Friday, only 24 hours after Downs, an 18-year-old senior at Broadneck High School, was killed on the same street in Bywater.

Downs was standing outside an apartment in the 1800 block of Copeland Street when two men rode up in a cab and fired two shots Thursday evening.

He died of a gunshot wound in the lower back of the head.

Bywater Mutual Homes, a private housing development off Forest Drive, has been the scene of ongoing drug-related violence in recent years.

Shootings last January and March prompted residents to demand more police patrols.

Smith testified that he knew Bywater was an easy place to score a drug deal. But Lomax's attorney, Charles M. Carlson, argued that Smith provoked the scuffle because he had only $10 instead of the $40 he needed to buy cocaine. In his concluding argument, Carlson also said that Smith threatened the dealer by saying he was an undercover narcotics agent.

Under questioning by Carlson, Smith admitted on the first day that he lied several times to investigators about the shooting. He first told police he was shot while handing out fliers for his landscaping business.

Later, he said he wanted to buy a bag of marijuana.

Carlson tried to further discredit the case by showing that the prosecution's lead witness, Charles A. Gray, 17, had a clear motive for shooting Smith. Gray, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault with intent to rob in exchange for testifying against Lomax, was struggling with Smith over the drug deal, Carlson contended.

Gray is awaiting sentencing. Mulford said he would recommend a sentence of six months to three years instead of the maximum 10 years.

Defense attorney Carlson argued that Lomax could have left his palm print on the car at some other time.

Dressed in jeans and a striped sweater, Lomax sat impassively through most of the trial. He ignored Smith, who sat in his wheelchair in the gallery.

Carlson made an emotional plea to the jury to avoid convicting Lomax if members had the slightest doubt of his guilt.

He said only a deranged man would have shot someone, as Mulford claimed, "to see what it was like to shoot somebody." And Carlson repeatedly said that Gray was a more likely suspect.

"I bet (Gray) knows the serial on the gun," Carlson argued. "It's his gun."

His strategy of discrediting the prosecution's main witness and glossing over the only physical evidence -- the palm print -- paid off two hours later, when the jury returned and announced the verdict to Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr.

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