'Crowbar' takes stand his way

Dan Rodricks

March 01, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

The cross-examination of Dominic "I Don't Like Being Called Crowbar" Carozza now stands as one of the most memorable in the history of the Baltimore Circuit Court: a legendary performance by a man of legend. The defendant, with two murder acquittals (one in 1961, the other in 1969) already on his resume, stood trial for the shooting death of one Russell Charles Baker. He didn't do the crime, Carozza said, so he came to court prepared for punchin'. He was testy, angry, abusive, defiant, philosophical and sarcastic. The trial judge didn't seem to mind, either; never did he admonish Mr. Carozza to directly answer questions and cut the wise cracks aimed at a female prosecutor.

So, for an hour or so yesterday afternoon, the defendant was allowed to punch, jab and even sucker one here and there.

Carozza, who looks like Buddy Hackett with thick glasses, handed his crutches to a court clerk and slid into the witness stand. The main event commenced when Elizabeth Ritter, assistant state's attorney, started cross-examination.

Here are some highlights and quotes:

* Raphael Santini, attorney for Carozza's co-defendant, Bobby Vizzini, questioning a medical examiner: "Now, doctor, besides the [six] bullets, were there any other distinguishing features on the body?"

* Carozza, on testimony that some women had asked him to go to Lancaster Street, scene of the June 22 shooting of Russell Charles Baker: "I'm not going to no scene of no murder."

* Baker and Carozza's girlfriend, Marsha Hammons, were both drug addicts. They visited a Carroll County methadone clinic daily. Here's how Carozza said Baker's untimely death impacted his life: "Worse thing for me was Russell getting killed 'cause he was taking Marsha that long ride to Eldersburg every day."

* Carozza, on the cross-examination by prosecutor Ritter: "I'm not going to testify if this continues. . . ."

* Ritter, asking Carozza a simple question: "Did you begin [working for] the state before you lost your leg in a car bomb or after?"

* Judge Hilary D. Caplan, on Ritter: "I'm not particularly happy with the question."

* Carozza, on Caplan: "Your problem is you're God."

* Caplan, on questions from reporters: "I turn my back."

* Carozza, on Caplan: "Just like you turn your back on me."

* Carozza to Ritter, when asked about his girlfriend's drug habit: "I'm sure you did things in your life you're not proud of, just like you're doing now."

* On his relationship with Marsha Hammons: "I never hit Marsha with a pipe. Read my lips. I never hit Marsha."

* On whether his young co-defendant, Vizzini, once went to pick Hammons up for him: "Why do I need Bobby go get my girl? That would be like, like, like putting the chickens with the fox. He's too handsome."

* On his willingness to lend money to people he meets in Baltimore bars: "I'm easy."

* On people who don't repay their loans: "If you take something out of a drawer that don't belong to you, and you close that drawer without putting it back, the next time you open that drawer, it ain't gonna be there."

* Responding to a question from Ritter about a certain night leading up to Baker's murder: "I don't remember. I'm sure you don't remember where you were every night -- or maybe you do, since no one would take ya'out."

* On his language skills: "I'm speaking English. I can speak Italian for you if you like."

* On Ritter: "I don't know what she's tryin' to do."

* Caplan, explaining: "She's cross-examining you, Mr. Carozza. She's not your friend."

* Carozza, on John Long, former co-defendant and now state's witness: "He's a habitual liar, wants to be a big shot."

* On Vizzini's girlfriend: "They call her Spike."

* On his respect for Vizzini's girl: "I don't use the name Spike, by the way, I call her Kathy."

* On why he never invited prosecutor Ritter to his "shore" home in Bowley's Quarters: "If at the time you wasn't so nasty, you could have come to the shore, too."

* On his fabled past: "No matter what I am, I came from a good family. . . ."

* On the city homicide detective who arrested him: "He's a vindictive person."

* On a prosecution question and his overall attitude toward the state: "I object, your honor."

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