Huff's Attorney Questions Racial Makeup Of Jury

March 22, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Ronald Lee Huff went to the Aberdeen apartment of Kenneth Hueitt on the night after Christmas 1990 following a soured drug deal. Looking for revenge, he ended up stabbing Hueitt to death.

That is the picture Assistant State's Attorney Michael Sanger painted for a Harford Circuit Court jury during opening statements Thursday in Huff's trial.

"The defendant was mad. He was angry. He was looking for revenge," Sanger said.

But defense attorney Stuart L. Alison told the ninemen and three women that Huff acted in self-defense. When Huff went to the apartment in Washington Park, Alison said, he was greeted by aknife-wielding Hueitt.

The Bel Air attorney criticized the policeinvestigation into Hueitt's death, noting that a second knife was found near the scene but investigators never examined it for fingerprints.

"You'll see a botched investigation that leaves more questionsthan answers," Alison said.

Huff is accused of stabbing 23-year-old Hueitt once in the chest at the victim's apartment, in the 100 block of Hanover Court, on Dec. 26, 1990.

Huff, of the 500 block of Plaza Court in Aberdeen, is charged with first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, assault and battery, and a weapons charge.

If convicted, the 38-year-old Huff faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Testimony in the trial is to resume Monday.

Before proceedings started, Alison argued that Huff, who is black, would not get a fair trial because of the racial makeup of the jury. Of the 12 jurors and three alternates, only one is black.

Jury Commissioner Janet Henderson said the court has few ways to determine the race of potential jurors until they arrive for orientation before trials.

Jurors must complete forms before being called for trial, but a section on race, religion and national origin is optional. About one-fourth provide this information, Henderson said.

She said a computer randomly pulls names from a list of 76,955 registered voters in the county.About 3,000 people are selected each year.

For the Huff trial, the jurors and alternates were picked from a pool of 72 people, Henderson said. The same pool was used to pick jurors for a civil trial thatwas heard Wednesday.

Of the 72, two were black. One was assigned to the civil case, while the second was selected for the Huff trial, Henderson said.

Alison argued that blacks are underrepresented on juries. He noted that of the potential jurors, only 13 came from the heavily populated areas of Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and Edgewood, where a majority of the county's blacks live.

Sanger dismissed Alison's arguments, saying any racial prejudices are weeded out during the jury selection.

"This is a black vs. black case," said Sanger, noting that Hueitt also was black. "I can't see how he can claim there'sracial discrimination in this case."

Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron denied Alison's motion, saying that one black out of 12 jurors closely matches the percentage of blacks in Harford.

Harford Countyis 9.1 percent black, according to 1990 U.S. census statistics.

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