Did Brian Jordan stab a Columbia woman to death with her own butcherknife, or was he only an accomplice to a robbery that turned violent?
These questions were put to a Howard County jury Monday as Jordan's murder trial opened. Jordan, 24, of Guilford is charged with first-degree murder in the April 1990 death. The state is seeking the death penalty.
Barker, a 44-year-old program analyst with the Health Care Financing Administration, was found dead in the bedroom of her home in the 9700 block of Basket Ring Road.
In opening statements, Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage said that Jordan and another man, Kevin Briscoe, broke into Barker's home the evening of April 21, planningto commit a robbery. The men searched for items to steal downstairs,then grabbed a butcher knife from Barker's kitchen and went upstairs, where she was sleeping, Gage said.
"Her neck was slashed, her arms were cut, a pillow was placed over her face, and that butcher knife was plunged into her chest," Gage said.
Briscoe, 26, of Columbia, was convicted in February of first-degree murder in the case. The state relied on a paper trail showing that Briscoe made numerous purchases and cash withdrawals using Barker's stolen credit cards. Prosecutors contend that Jordan was the actual killer, however.
Philip Dantes, Jordan's lawyer, acknowledged that Jordan was in Barker's houseand participated in a robbery but maintains that it was Briscoe who killed Barker.
Dantes told the jury that Briscoe had stolen the credit cards before April 21 but needed Barker's personal identification number to obtain cash withdrawals using her bank card. He recruitedJordan to return to Barker's house with him to get the numbers from Barker.
"When Kevin Briscoe confronted Pamela Barker with the knife and first cut her, Brian Jordan jumped," Dantes said. "And when he saw Kevin Briscoe putting the knife in her, he ran out of the house and he never went back in.
"There is not one piece of scientific evidence that will indicate that Mr. Jordan had that knife in his hand," Dantes said.
Dantes attacked the credibility of Temesgen Melaku,who testified in Briscoe's trial and will be a key state's witness in Jordan's trial.
Melaku, 22, of Millersville, drove Jordan and Briscoe to Barker's house and served as a lookout. He pleaded guilty tosecond-degree murder and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years.
During Jordan's trial, Melaku is expected to testify that Jordan stabbed Barker. Dantes said that his testimony cannot be considered reliable because Melaku made earlier statements to police that Briscoe was the killer.
He said that Melaku changed his story under pressure from Briscoe when the two men were at the Howard County Detention Center.
"The efforts of Kevin Briscoe to manufacture evidence to absolve himself from criminal responsibility and put the blame on Brian Jordan hit pay dirt when Temesgen Melaku changed his story," Dantes said.