Acquittal in Neall break-in Jury finds neighbor innocent in case

July 22, 1993|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury has acquitted a 31-year-old Davidsonville man accused of entering County Executive Robert R. Neall's home Dec. 1, stealing his wife's purse and attempting to swipe her Mazda Miata.

Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. shook his head in seeming amazement following the verdict. Assistant State's Attorney Fred Paone said he was "absolutely dumbfounded" by the jury's finding.

Meanwhile, defendant Virgil E. Brown walked away a free man and said, "I feel justice has been served for the first time."

Mr. Brown had been charged with breaking and entering, burglary and two counts of theft. After 2 1/2 hours of deliberation, he was acquitted on all counts by the jury of seven women and five men.

"We've all decided not to talk about this case," one jury member said as she walked out of the courthouse.

"I don't really have any comment, except that's what the justice system is all about," Mr. Neall said yesterday. "That's what the jury trial is all about. That's the way things work out.

"I look at it this way, maybe the evidence was circumstantial," Mr. Neall added. "No one could place him at the scene. I've put it behind me." I put it behind me on Dec. 2."

In closing arguments yesterday, Mr. Paone stressed that Mr. Brown's red wallet, containing his identification, was found in the Miata the morning after the robbery. He also cited Bruce Brown's testimony that his brother left home at 12:30 the night of the robbery.

"He told Bruce to 'Take the Fifth Amendment, your testimony might send me away,' " Mr. Paone reminded the jury.

"He didn't tell his brother 'Go in there and tell the truth because the truth will set me free.' He didn't say that because the truth, in this case, will put him behind bars where he belongs," Mr. Paone said.

During the trial, Margaret Neall testified that she heard a racket outside the house the night of the robbery.

She hustled downstairs and awakened her husband, who had fallen asleep on his recliner.

Mr. Neall slipped on his shoes, grabbed his car keys and gave chase. He flagged down a passing county police officer, but the two men lost their suspect. Mr. Brown's wallet, however, was later found in Mrs. Neall's car.

Defense attorney Keith Gross, in his closing argument, reminded the jury that no one ever saw Mr. Brown commit the crime.

"Mr. Paone gave you the testimony [about] the unknown black man seen walking down the road from the crime scene, and he gave you Bruce Brown's testimony saying that Virgil was not [at home]," Mr. Gross told the jury. "He wants you to make a conclusion against Mr. Brown with those details. But there is no concrete evidence Mr. Brown did it."

"It is true Mr. Neall picked up my client and drove him here yesterday," Mr. Gross added. "If he [Mr. Brown] broke into his house and allegedly stole his car, is that the type of conduct for a man who broke into someone's house, to get into his car? No."

Minutes before the verdict, Mr. Brown was pacing back and forth in front of the courtroom, anticipating the outcome.

"Just because it's a politician doesn't make things right," said Mr. Brown who hitched a ride with Mr. Neall to the courthouse Tuesday. Mr. Brown's sister gave him a ride yesterday. "All I know is they're trying to railroad me. It's frustrating.

"But I don't have any reason to be nervous because I didn't do anything wrong," Mr. Brown said. "It was wrong for them to charge me to begin with."

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