'Soft touch' or 'mastermind' in murder? Jurors are deciding the fate of Carozza.

March 05, 1991|By Raymond L. Sanchez | Raymond L. Sanchez,Evening Sun Staff

In the words of a prosecutor, longtime crime figure Dominic J. "Crowbar" Carozza was the "mastermind" behind the June murder of Russell Charles Baker, a reputed drug courier who owed Carozza money.

In the words of Carozza's lawyer, his client was a hard-working city public works superintendent with a "soft touch" for helping people.

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury now must decide whether Carozza, 59, and co-defendant Robert "Tattoo Bobby" Vizzini, 26, plotted and carried out Baker's murder June 22 near Carozza's Little Italy home. Prosecutors said Vizzini allegedly drove the getaway car. William "Crazy" Brooks, the accused triggerman, will be tried later.

Jury deliberations were to resume today. The panel of 10 women and two men deliberated about an hour late yesterday after being instructed on the law by Judge Hilary D. Caplan and hearing closing arguments.

A 42-year-old heroin addict, Baker was shot six times. His body was found on Pier 7 on the Fells Point waterfront. Baker's car was found near Carozza's Albemarle Street home.

A homeless man who lived on the pier testified that he heard someone say, "---- you and your money," before a burst of gunfire.

Baker and Marsha Hammons, Carozza's girlfriend, borrowed more than $2,000 from Carozza to buy heroin in Brooklyn, N.Y., according to trial testimony. Baker was supposed to sell the heroin with Hammons, 36.

But Baker, Hammons and Baker's girlfriend, Deana Bishop, injected most of the drug before it could be resold, according to testimony. Hammons testified that Carozza became angry when they replaced the heroin with a look-alike white powder.

On the stand last week, Carozza said he was sleeping off a hangover the morning Baker was shot. The defendant, who was abusive and sarcastic to a prosecutor during cross-examination, admitted that he had been drinking with Baker shortly before the shooting.

In closing arguments, Phillip Sutley, Carozza's lawyer, questioned the "quality of the testimony" of state witnesses. As an example, he gave the testimony of 42-year-old John Long, an admitted cocaine dealer. A bartender on The Block, Long was a suspect in Baker's murder until police confirmed his alibi.

Long testified that he visited Carozza's "shore" home in Bowley's Quarters shortly after Baker's death. Long said he overheard a conversation between Carozza and Vizzini. "I'm glad I got that Russell Baker," Carozza allegedly said in the conversation.

Sutley said his client, a city employee for 18 years until his recent suspension, had a "soft touch" for helping others. He said Carozza tried to steer Hammons, a convicted prescription forger, away from drugs and build a family with her. "Here's a man who is really doing something for this city," Sutley said.

Explaining why several state witnesses testified in exchange for favorable treatment in pending cases against them, prosecutor Timothy J. Doory said: "Sometimes you have to let the little fish go to catch the big fish. The fish that was caught was a shark."

Vizzini's lawyer, Raphael Santini, said the state's case was based purely on "illogical innuendo."

Carozza's 30-year criminal history includes numerous allegations and convictions connected to shootings, stabbings and federal firearms charges. He was convicted last month on a federal charge of tampering with a witness in the Baker murder case.

Carozza, who lost his right leg in a 1971 car-bomb explosion, was acquitted of two Baltimore murders: one in 1961, the other in 1969.

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