Man accused of killing child, 11, erupts in court

June 20, 1995|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff Writer

A man accused of killing a child yesterday erupted in anger on the witness stand, knocking over a microphone and stalking back to his seat in the middle of testifying that his confession to murder had been coerced.

Warren C. Berry, 32, began cursing at Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman, who had been questioning him about why he expected an assistant state's attorney to find him psychiatric help in exchange for the confession. The judge -- at a prosecutor's request -- then said he would disregard Berry's testimony.

Berry, a convicted sex offender, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 11-year-old Michael Shawn Gasque, whose body was found in December 1992 in an abandoned shed near his West Baltimore home. The boy had been stabbed numerous times and sexually assaulted, according to police.

Berry made a statement about the Gasque killing while under arrest in October 1993 for the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy, a case for which he received a 30-year prison sentence last week.

But he is seeking to have the statement about the slaying suppressed from his trial on the grounds that detectives offered in exchange to find him psychiatric help -- then never did. In a surprising turn of events, defense witness John Berry, Warren Berry's uncle, yesterday testified under cross-examination that his nephew had confessed the killing to him when the two were conferring at police headquarters.

"Did you consider that [confession] to be the truth?" asked Assistant State's Attorney William D. McCollum Jr.

"Yes," Mr. Berry said.

Mr. McCollum asked the judge to issue an immediate summons for Mr. Berry's appearance as a prosecution witness in the murder trial.

Both John Berry and Eliza Savage, Warren Berry's mother, testified that they went to police headquarters while Berry was being questioned after he asked to see them. Ms. Savage testified that her son originally told police he did not commit the killing, then said, "I did it, I did it" after police pressured him.

Assistant State's Attorney Donald Giblin said he pointed out at the time he was making no promises to make sure Berry got help.

During his few minutes on the stand, Berry said he made the statement because he wanted to see a doctor or be sent to a mental institution. "I know I needed help," he said, " 'cause of what I've done."

Because of an objection from his attorney, William M. Monfried, Berry was not allowed to elaborate.

The hearing is to continue today.

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