Ex-Meade athlete on trial in slaying

January 07, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

The attorney for a former Meade High School basketball star admitted to an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury yesterday that his client had killed a 21-year-old man after a fistfight at a Severn playground last April.

But the real issue, Assistant Public Defender Paul Hazelhurst said, was whether the shooting had been provoked.

Raymond Sommerville, 20, who played guard for Meade High in the 1990-91 season and helped them record an 18-6 season, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Robert Lee Hall Jr., 21, of the 1800 block of Richfield Drive, Severn.

Police found Mr. Hall dead of a gunshot wound to the head about 8 p.m. April 7 near a Pioneer City basketball court.

In opening statements yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney Fred Paone said Mr. Hall had beaten up Mr. Sommerville in a fistfight near a basketball court in the 1800 block of Richfield Drive just before the shooting.

The fight started after a basketball game. It was broken up when someone came up to Mr. Hall, holding Mr. Sommerville in a headlock, put a revolver to his head and demanded that Mr. Sommerville be released.

Once free, Mr. Sommerville immediately ran up to the man holding the gun, grabbed it away and taunted Mr. Hall with it, Mr. Paone said.

"He tells the victim, in so many words, 'Looky here now, pal, I've got a gun, what are you going to do now?' " Mr. Paone told the jury.

Mr. Sommerville fired one shot, Mr. Paone said, hitting the victim in the head "as he was literally running for his life."

Paul Eugene "Bone" Turner, 18, of the 8600 block of Pioneer Drive, who allegedly supplied the defendant with the murder weapon, is to be tried on first-degree murder charges this year.

In his statements yesterday, Mr. Paone said that 41 seconds elapsed between the fight's end and Mr. Hall's slaying. He emphasized that the victim had been fleeing when shot and that the defendant fled the scene rather than assist the victim or call for help.

"He (Mr. Hall) tried to run, but then he stopped. There wasn't anywhere that he could go," testified witness Patricia Brown, who burst into tears as she recounted the shooting.

But Mr. Hazelhurst, the assistant public defender, said Mr. Hall -- had started the fight, then beat his client until he was "a bloody mess."

The beating humiliated Mr. Sommerville in front of his friends, Mr. Hazelhurst told the jury, so enraging him that he lost all reason.

"In a place where guns are all too available, he raced into the crowd, he snatched a gun, he whirled, and all too quickly he fired," Mr. Hazelhurst said. "It didn't have to happen, it shouldn't have happened, and it wouldn't have happened if Robert Hall had left Raymond Sommerville at peace."

Judge Eugene M. Lerner is presiding over the trial, which is expected to go to the jury today.

Mr. Hazelhurst said he will ask Judge Lerner to instruct jurors on the differences between first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter in hopes of winning a manslaughter verdict -- and possibly a lesser sentence.

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