Man acquitted in assault shooting victim angry

January 21, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A former investigator for the county public defender's office was acquitted yesterday of shooting an Annapolis cab driver last April by a jury that deliberated for barely half an hour.

The panel of nine women and three men found Eric Daniels, 32, of the 1400 block of Middletown Road, Annapolis, not guilty of assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to maim and reckless endangerment.

Jurors said afterward that they could not resolve conflicting testimony about the identity of the customer who shot Leslie R. Gross, the cab driver, after he drove a fare to a secluded spot outside Annapolis. In addition, they said, the only strong evidence linking Daniels to the crime was the victim's testimony.

"There were too many unanswered questions. There was no motive, no weapon, there just wasn't enough evidence to pin it on the defendant," said the jury foreman, who asked that his name not be used.

The verdict angered the cabbie, who testified that he was sure of his assailant's identity.

"I'm frustrated and very mad," said Mr. Gross, of the 900 block of Franklin Manor Road, Churchton. "I know that was the man who shot me."

Daniels is serving a three-year sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Roxbury after he pleaded guilty Sept. 17, 1992, to robbing another Annapolis cab driver in 1991.

He was acquitted Feb. 21, 1990, of beating an Arnold man and robbing him of $170. The man told police Daniels assaulted him after he agreed to give Daniels a ride to Crofton June 10, 1989, according to court records.

The jury was not allowed to hear testimony about Daniels' previous record.

Mr. Gross was shot in the arm and chest by a passenger he had taken to Shot Town Road, near Arnold, about 3 a.m. April 29.

Mr. Gross told jurors in the two-day trial that Daniels asked him for a ride early that morning as he was leaving the Crown and Diamond Cab. Co. on West Street. Mr. Gross testified that he told Daniels he was on his way to pick up another fare in Eastport, but that Daniels could ride along with him.

After Mr. Gross took the first fare to his destination, Daniels asked to be taken to the 1400 block of Shot Town Road, where he told the driver to stop and asked for change for a $50 bill, Mr. Gross said.

As Mr. Gross was recording the fare in his hand-written manifest, he was shot.

"I have nightmares constantly," said Mr. Gross, who at one point agreed to lift his shirt to show jurors his wounds.

But another passenger in the cab, Larry Brown, testified that he knew Daniels and that it wasn't Daniels in the cab that night.

"I knew him and I always asked him "when are you going to be a lawyer?" Mr. Brown said.

In closing arguments, Paul Hazelhurst, Daniels' lawyer, highlighted the conflicting accounts and noted that police never recovered a weapon or fingerprints. He described the jury as a truck that must cross a bridge constructed by the prosecution's evidence."

"The state's bridge is not strong enough to carry that truck. I wouldn't even walk across that bridge," he said.

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