Dontay Carter trial to go to jury Monday

November 14, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

Hour by hour, day after day, Vickie Wash and Dontay Carter sat within 7 feet of each other. Separated only by the East Baltimore teen-ager's two lawyers, the prosecutor and the defendant did not exchange so much as a meaningful glance.

Yesterday, however, they verbally slugged it out.

She smiled and coated her questions and comments with sarcasm. He leaned forward, pointed his finger and said her prosecution was the last step in his persecution.

"I don't care a bucket full of spit for no police," Carter said.

"That's obvious," Ms. Wash replied.

"I thought you had a college education," Carter barked at the prosecutor. "You must have graduated from Burger King."

"Everybody's so dumb, aren't they Mr. Carter?"

This was a prosecutor's mocking cross-examination of a defendant who insists police fabricated his confession. By the time testimony ended in the trial yesterday, the case had come down to one issue.

Somebody's lying. Is it Carter or the cops?

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury will consider that question Monday.

Carter, charged with kidnapping and murder, was the only defense witness in the three-week-long trial. He took the stand Thursday to blame two of his friends for the beating death of Vitalis V. Pilius, a 37-year-old father of four from Catonsville.

Carter, 19, admitted engaging in a shopping spree with the dead man's credit cards. But he said those credit cards had been given to him by Clarence Woodward and Martin Parker -- and he suggested he did not learn until the next day that they were responsible for the murder.

Homicide detectives had previously testified Carter confessed to abducting Mr. Pilius from the parking garage at the Harbor Park Cinema and then, with the 17-year-old Woodward youth, beating him to death with a pole in a burned out East Baltimore rowhouse.

Questioned yesterday by his lawyer, John S. Deros, Carter said he never confessed. He said one veteran detective kicked him out of his chair during the interrogation and another made up the statement.

Carter said police refused to let him read notes of his purported statement, which carries his signature. He explained: "I had no choice because whether or not I signed it, it was coming into evidence that I said it. That's the law. There's nothing I can do about it."

Under cross-examination, Carter was icy and confident and, alternately, loud and combative. He cited the distrust of police ingrained during an upbringing in an inner-city neighborhood. He admitted lying to police at times during his interrogation, explaining: "I'm supposed to."

He accused police of botching the investigation by failing to compare Mr. Parker's fingerprints with any found in the rowhouse.

"I'm being persecuted because your Police Department got fooled by Martin Parker," he told Ms. Wash. "They know directly what happened . . . .

"I call the state's attorney's office inept and the Baltimore City Police Department, as a whole, in general, is stupid," Carter added. "You have 30-year veterans who can't relate to anything on the street and can't solve a crime because it's too confusing."

During one exchange, Ms. Wash asked, in a sing-song delivery, "You're smarter than anyone in this whole courtroom, aren't you?"

"A fool knows everything but his own ignorance," Carter replied. "You think every young black man has got to be dumb or has to learn everything in prison."

The prosecutor shot back: "That's your speech Mr. Carter. That's what you've been waiting nine months to say."

By opening himself up to cross-examination, Carter was forced to provide some information he would have preferred to keep from the jury. For instance, he admitted that he confessed to the Feb. 14 kidnapping of another man, an incident that led to his arrest.

Earlier, in direct testimony, he said he had been sentenced to three years in prison for theft when he was 15 and he is being held during the trial in solitary confinement on death row at the Maryland Penitentiary -- facts defense lawyers had previously fought to keep from the jury.

Closer to the facts surrounding the Pilius slaying, Ms. Wash demanded to know why, if his friends killed Mr. Pilius, did the body end up in a vacant house next to Carter's relatives?

And, playing what she seemed to regard as her trump card, Ms. Wash wanted to know why, if the other teen-agers were the killers, did Mr. Carter use the dead man's driver's license, bank machine and credit cards and company car and otherwise seem to be calling all the shots among the group?

Carter said he used the man's credit cards because the bogus driver's license had his picture on it.

"You did everything but kill Mr. Pilius, right, Mr. Carter?" she asked. Gesturing toward the jury, she added, "That's what you want these people to believe?"

Closing arguments are set for Monday. If convicted, Carter faces the prospect of life in prison with no chance for parole.

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