Woman guilty of manslaughter in stabbing of sister

June 10, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore County jury returned a manslaughter verdict Wednesday night against a 25-year-old Rosedale woman who fatally stabbed her sister in a fight that began over a can of soda last Nov. 29.

Cynthia L. Askew had been charged with murder in the death of Samantha L. Brown, 27, at the home they shared with their mother in the 6000 block of St. Regis Road.

The jury deliberated about 6 1/2 hours before settling on manslaughter -- a response to provocation that falls short of self-defense, according to attorneys in the case.

Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe scheduled sentencing Aug. 31 for the conviction, which carries a 10-year maximum term.

Ms. Askew testified Tuesday that she and her sister were best friends and admitted killing Ms. Brown.

When asked to recall the stabbing, she closed her eyes, began to cry and scream -- pounding on the witness box, wrapping her arms around her head and rocking. Judge Howe excused the jury.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael G. DeHaven said he was not surprised the jury rejected his argument for second-degree murder. In speaking with jurors afterward, he said, he learned that several cried in the jury room after Ms. Askew's outpouring ++ of grief.

The women's mother, Janice Brown, 45, testified Monday that Samantha Brown's girlfriend had taken a can of soda that belonged to Cynthia from the refrigerator. Cynthia complained to her mother, who spoke to Samantha -- who had been drinking and became angry.

"Samantha got upset," Mrs. Brown said, and insulted Cynthia's children. As name-calling escalated, Samantha took a plant and "hit Cynthia in the face with it, kind of like twisted it into her face. Samantha had Cynthia down, just hitting her."

After she and a niece separated the sisters, "I thought everything was under control," Mrs. Brown said. But as she was lecturing Samantha, "I heard Cynthia say, 'I'm tired of people beating on me.'

"I turned around. I saw blood . . . Samantha had her hand over her heart. . . . She didn't say anything."

In her testimony, Ms. Askew said, "I remember her taking change from her pocket and throwing it at me, saying, 'This is for the soda,' . . . and 'Next time you have something to say, say it to me.' We began to argue and call names. It was getting out of hand, and I didn't want to take it any further."

But her sister starting beating her, she said.

"In a typical homicide, you have two families beset by tragedy," Mr. Gordon said. "Here, it's the same family."

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