Defense motions rejected at trial in Westminster shooting death

February 04, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

After a frustrating morning yesterday, Timothy Cumberland's defense lawyer plans to keep trying today to convince a Carroll Circuit Court jury that his client is not guilty of first-degree murder.

The frustration came for Michael D. Montemarano, Mr. Cumberland's attorney, when Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. rejected all his motions and barred nearly half his prospective witnesses from testifying.

Mr. Montemarano was expected to call only one witness today: Samuel Allen Miller, the 23-year-old man who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Gregory Lamont Howard on South Center Street last year.

Miller pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder and is serving 30 years in state prison. What he would say on the stand today wasn't clear, and Mr. Montemarano noted that with Miller's sentence-reduction request pending before a Carroll Circuit judge, Miller might not be inclined to help Mr. Cumberland, 24, of Reisterstown.

But, Mr. Montemarano said yesterday, Miller might provide testimony that could suggest that the gun blast that struck Mr. Howard in the heart was an accident and that the killing was not premeditated.

If the jury believes that Mr. Howard was accidentally shot, they couldn't find Mr. Cumberland guilty of murder, Mr. Montemarano said.

Court adjourned before noon yesterday after Mr. Montemarano failed in his attempts to introduce testimony that he said would contradict statements made by prosecution witnesses.

Mr. Montemarano tried -- and failed -- to present testimony to show that Mr. Howard was aggressively taunting Miller, Mr. Cumberland and Daniel Justin Leonard, the third man charged in the case, when Leonard's 12-gauge shotgun discharged.

Judge Beck ruled that that testimony was irrelevant and was not an issue because Mr. Cumberland is not accused of firing the gun.

Mr. Montemarano also tried twice to have the first-degree murder charges dropped, but Judge Beck denied those requests, too.

And, in response to a note written by a juror who didn't like Mr. Montemarano's courtroom demeanor, the defense attorney tried -- unsuccessfully -- to have the juror replaced.

Mr. Montemarano reminded Judge Beck that he "strenuously" objected to the rulings and that he wanted his objections "on the record" for a potential appeal.

Earlier, Mr. Montemarano called four witnesses who testified that Mr. Cumberland was far from boastful about Mr. Howard's slaying. Several prosecution witnesses have testified that they heard Mr. Cumberland and Mr. Miller congratulate each other on shooting a black man.

Leonard, Miller and Mr. Cumberland are white; Mr. Howard was black.

Assistant State's Attorneys Kathi Hill and Eileen McInerney presented more than a dozen witnesses Tuesday and Wednesday. Many of them said that Mr. Cumberland was furious at being sold a bag of bogus crack by a South Center Street dealer and that he got out of Leonard's car, brandished Leonard's shotgun and shouted racial epithets until he calmed down and got back in the car.

Leonard had testified that Mr. Cumberland had given the gun to Miller inside the car and that as he put the car in gear, he heard the gun go off.

Leonard also testified that it was Mr. Cumberland who wanted to buy crack cocaine on the evening of Jan. 28 and said his own involvement was limited to the use of his car, his gun and his ammunition when the shooting occurred.

Leonard has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a maximum 10-year prison sentence and his testimony against Mr. Cumberland.

The jury was expected to begin deliberating later today.

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