Mistrial declared in officer's trial Move follows dismissal of juror

August 09, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A mistrial was declared this morning in Baltimore police officer Edward T. Gorwell's manslaughter trial.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Ellen M. Heller declared the mistrial after the prosecution would not agree to allow the officer's fate to be decided by only 11 jurors. Minutes earlier, Judge Heller had dismissed a juror who failed to show up for deliberations in the case on Friday. Officer Gorwell's lawyer tentatively agreed to allow the remaining 11 jurors to decide his fate. Alternate jurors in the trial were dismissed after deliberations began Thursday.

Judge Heller said she was "dismayed and perplexed" that the prosecutor, Timothy J. Doory, objected to proceeding with 11 jurors because the public would not have confidence in that approach.

Officer Gorwell, 24, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter in the April 17 fatal shooting of Simmont Donta Thomas. The Thomas youth, 14, was shot in the back while fleeing from a stolen car.

Judge Heller said she did some research over the weekend but could find no situation comparable to the "highly unusual circumstances" that developed last Friday when juror Malcom T. Boykin failed to show up for deliberations. He said he was hiding because he was afraid to tell his wife that muggers had stolen the family's rent money the previous night.

The judge cited Mr. Boykin's lack of remorse for disrupting the trial in ruling that the 36-year-old maintenance worker should not allowed to rejoin deliberations.

Ordered to take the witness stand by Judge Heller, Mr. Boykin said he spent Thursday night and part of Friday in his car near his home in the Cedonia area of Northeast Baltimore drinking bourbon after being mugged outside an unnamed liquor store. He said he had cashed his paycheck and robbers took the money he needed for his rent payment, due the following day.

"My problem was going home to tell my wife somebody had taken my rent money. I had a major problem with that," said Mr. Boykin, explaining that it was a blow to his ego.

Henry L. Belsky, Officer Gorwell's lawyer, told the judge he doubted the accuracy of the juror's story and said he had a "grave problem" with Mr. Boykin's remaining on the panel for the remainder of deliberations.

Judge Heller then blasted the juror for his failure to show up or even call in with an explanation Friday morning. "These actions are not the actions of someone this court believes appreciates the responsibility of a juror," she said. "I conclude he should not participate as a juror in the continued deliberations."

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