Man seeking new trial in shotgun slaying case

March 02, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Timothy Cumberland, who faces a sentence of life in prison without parole for the shotgun killing of a Westminster man last year, has asked for a new trial.

Cumberland claims in the new-trial motion that crucial defense evidence was unfairly kept from the Carroll Circuit Court jury that convicted him Feb. 8 of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the Jan. 28, 1993, shotgun death of Gregory Lamont Howard on South Center Street.

Michael D. Montemarano said in the motion filed last week that Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr.'s rulings on evidence and instructions to the jury "denied the defendant a fair trial."

Cumberland, 24, of Reisterstown was the only one of the three men charged in Mr. Howard's death to be convicted of first-degree murder, even though he didn't fire the fatal blast, drive the getaway car or own the murder weapon.

Co-defendants Samuel Allen Miller, who fired the fatal shot, and Daniel Justin Leonard, who owned the gun and the car, both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September.

The three co-defendants left a Westminster bar and bought a bag of crack cocaine on South Center Street. Cumberland wanted another bag, so the trio -- in Leonard's car -- drove around the block and bought what turned out to be a bag of soap shavings. Cumberland vowed revenge on the person who had sold them the bogus crack and told Leonard to drive back to South Center Street.

Cumberland got out of the car, brandished a 12-gauge shotgun and yelled at just about everyone in the 100 block of S. Center St. He got back into the car as Mr. Howard leaned over the rear passenger door.

Mr. Howard was shot while the gun was in Miller's hands.

By all accounts, Mr. Howard had not been involved in either drug deal, and he was trying to get Cumberland, Miller and Leonard to leave the area.

Throughout Cumberland's seven-day trial, Mr. Montemarano raised self-defense issues and tried to portray the victim -- who died almost instantly from a shotgun blast to the heart -- as a dangerous, drunken drug dealer who possibly could have caused his own death by instigating an argument with Cumberland, Leonard and Miller.

But Judge Beck ruled that defense testimony about Mr. Howard was irrelevant and that Cumberland really couldn't raise the issue of self-defense because he did not fire the shotgun.

Mr. Montemarano also said in the motion that Judge Beck responded to a jury question on intent -- a key component of first-degree murder -- in a way that "compelled a verdict of guilty."

Mr. Montemarano was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors said in their response to the new-trial motion that none of Judge Beck's rulings was "based on misconduct or error" and that a new trial is not warranted.

Assistant State's Attorneys Kathi Hill and Eileen McInerney could not be reached yesterday for comment.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for April 21 before Cumberland is to be sentenced.

Prosecutors are seeking life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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