Two sides in murder trial agree defendant was at scene but on little else

February 06, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

The jury in Timothy Cumberland's first-degree murder trial will be given two versions of Gregory Lamont Howard's death when attorneys present their closing arguments tomorrow.

After a week of testimony from about 20 witnesses, the panel of nine men and three women has heard conflicting descriptions of Cumberland and Mr. Howard, the 22-year-old Westminster man who was killed on South Center Street on Jan. 28, 1993.

Prosecutors have said that Mr. Cumberland was agitated and bent on getting revenge after he was cheated out of $40 when he was sold a bag of bogus crack cocaine that night. They say he wielded a 12-gauge shotgun, shouted racial epithets and threatened to get the person who sold him the bad crack.

They say it was Mr. Cumberland who persuaded friends Samuel Allen Miller and Daniel Justin Leonard to leave an all-you-can-drink night at a Main Street bar and go to South Center Street in search of crack. They say it was Mr. Cumberland who forced Leonard to stop his car after the bad drug deal. They say that if hadn't been for Mr. Cumberland's insistence on revenge, Mr. Howard might be alive today.

And, even though Mr. Cumberland didn't fire the gun that killed Mr. Howard, prosecutors say that he is just as responsible for his death as the man who did. Miller -- who took the witness stand Friday to testify on behalf of Mr. Cumberland -- admitted that his hands were on the gun when it was fired. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September and is serving 30 years in state prison.

Defense attorney Michael D. Montemarano will argue that his client was there that night and was angry at being cheated on the crack purchase, but that Mr. Cumberland didn't kill Mr. Howard.

Two defense witnesses -- Miller and Corey McKinley "Pistol" Davis -- said that by the time Mr. Cumberland got back into Leonard's car, Mr. Howard was leaning into an open window and struggling with Miller to get the gun. It went off seconds later.

Leonard testified for the prosecution that it was Mr. Cumberland who handed Miller a live shotgun shell shortly after the soured drug deal. Miller testified Friday for the defense that Leonard handed him the ammunition just before the drug deal.

Like Miller, Leonard has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He will be sentenced to no more than 10 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Mr. Cumberland.

Mr. Montemarano tried -- and largely failed -- to present trial testimony to show that Mr. Cumberland and everyone else in the car had reason to fear for their lives.

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