State Rests Its Case In Trial Of Green Slaying Suspect

November 22, 1991|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

The state's last witness in the murder trial of John Lee Leonard Jr.was a showstopper.

Standing about 6 feet, wearing a bright purplejacket and black miniskirt, Michelle Freeman turned more than a few heads Thursday afternoon as she entered the small courtroom at the Circuit Courthouse in Annapolis.

The state's attorney's office had paid to fly her down from New York City to testify against Leonard. Leonard, 42, is charged with fatally shooting former Annapolis High School basketball star Reno T. Green, 21, on July 8, 1989.

Freeman, formerly of Annapolis, testified that sometime after midnight on the night Green was murdered, Leonard knocked on her apartment door at Boston Heights Circle.

Leonardappeared agitated and was looking for Wendell J. Daniels, she said. Daniels, 28, a cousin of Freeman's roommate, already has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified against Leonard in return for a 15-year prison sentence.

Leonard "was very nervous and he mademe nervous," Freeman testified. "He was rushing around."

Freeman said Leonard left her apartment after asking to use the telephone, but came back a short time later. He appeared even more nervous and asked several times if he could jump out her third-story window.

Freeman refused to let him jump and asked him repeatedly to leave, she said.

Leonard kept opening the front door to peek out, she said. Freeman's roommate finally managed to get him out of the apartment by pushing him into the hall and locking the door behind him, Freeman testified. She then called the police.

But by the time they got there,John Leonard was long gone.

He was not arrested until months later in Oakland, Calif. Leonard, of the 1800 block of Copeland Street inAnnapolis, spent the next 16 months in federal custody on unrelated weapons and drug-possession charges before being turned over to Anne Arundel County last spring.

Freeman testified she left her apartment about a week after Green was killed because "word was on the street that (Wendell Daniels) had killed the Green guy."

After calling more than a dozen witnesses and introducing almost 40 exhibits and pieces of evidence, the state rested its case Thursday afternoon, the fourth day of the trial.

Presiding Judge Eugene M. Lerner told jurors the trial would resume Monday at 9:30 a.m.

Prosecutors have said Green was shot twice -- once in the side and once in the back -- after Daniels approached him to collect on a drug debt.

Assistant State's Attorney Frederick M. Paone contends that a fight broke out between Daniels and Green, during which Daniels fired twice.

One bullet hit the ground and the other, a bystander.

The prosecutor maintains that Leonard then stepped forward and shot Green twice. The former basketball star died minutes later.

The defense, however, hopesto convince the jury of seven women and five men that it was Daniels, not Leonard, who fired the fatal shots.

Smith said he has summoned between 10 to 14 people as witnesses, although he did not know howmany would actually testify.

"I'll think about it over the weekend," he said.

Smith believes the defense's case will take one to two days.

After the prosecution finished its case, Smith asked Lerner to dismiss charges against Leonard -- a routine move -- saying the state had not presented enough evidence to prove its case.

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