A witness against Eric Tirado, the man charged in the first-degree murder of a Maryland State trooper, fended off accusations that he himself might be a criminal, or at least a scrounger for reward money.
In his second day on the stand in Howard County Circuit Court yesterday, Edgar Duvarie said he had no criminal record and the State Police never offered him a reward for his testimony.
Tirado, Duvarie's friend and former co-worker at check-cashing company in the Bronx, N.Y., where both men lived, is on trial on charges that he pulled the trigger in the first-degree murder of Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf on March 29, 1990.
Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty against Tirado, would not say whether they had more witnesses to call after more than three weeks of making their case in the jury trial. But the defense expected the prosecution to rest today, allowing the defense to put its own witnesses on the stand.
Duvarie repeated earlier testimony that in a visit to Tirado's house after the shooting, Tirado and Francisco Rodriguez, who also is charged in the case, told him about how they argued over who should kill the trooper who had stopped them for speeding on Interstate 95 in Jessup.
Duvarie said Rodriguez and Tirado each told him essentially the same story about how Tirado allegedly agreed to shoot the trooper.
Duvarie appeared on the stand in a black shirt and dark glasses, contrasting with a bright white jacket and tie. As the defense took a crack at him, he occasionally answered questions Judge Raymond J. Kane said he didn't have to answer and replied sharply to the defense lawyer attempting to discredit him.
Van Bavel grilled Duvarie on his inability to remember the exact year in which he worked with Tirado at the company where they met and became friends. And he asked repeatedly whether Duvarie was fired from a later job at a bank on suspicion of theft, to Duvarie's denials.
Van Bavel asked why Duvarie continued his friendship with Tirado, even after he knew his friend had begun a career in dealing drugs and robbing other drug dealers' stashes.
"Are you sure you're not the drug dealer?" Van Bavel said, and repeatedly mentioned that Duvarie wore a beeper for telephone messages. Beepers are used by some drug dealers.
Duvarie said he never had been in trouble with the law, invited Van Bavel to investigate him and said that police officers carry beepers. "Does that mean they're drug dealers or something like that?" he said.
Van Bavel was skeptical about why Duvarie waited for the police to come to him, rather than contact them about what Tirado had told him. Duvarie said he feared retribution from other friends of Tirado and that he at first hesitated to tell the police what he knew when he first met them in the presence of his mother.
"I didn't want her knowing such a disgusting thing he [Tirado] did," Duvarie said. "I didn't want her knowing I knew anything about it."
He later called the Maryland State Police sergeant who had found him in the Bronx and related his story, but only after police assurances of protection.
He said the State Police have since relocated him to a Maryland apartment, paid the rent and furnished it. The police also have promised to relocate him again if he is threatened, Duvarie said, adding they did not offer him any reward.
When Van Bavel asked why he wouldn't talk to him outside the courtroom, Duvarie replied in disgust, "You're defending a criminal. Why should I talk to you?"