Statements will be allowed in retrial Man was convicted of murder in 1994

September 20, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County judge decided yesterday that statements a Reisterstown man made were voluntary and will be admitted in his trial on charges of killing a Westminster man in 1993.

Timothy Cumberland had been properly advised of his rights before he told Lt. Dean Brewer of the Westminster police his version of what happened Jan. 28, 1993, when a drug deal went sour and Gregory Lamont Howard was fatally shot, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled yesterday.

Yesterday's motions hearing on the statements, which took less than a hour, was one of the first steps toward retrying Mr. Cumberland on first-degree murder charges in the death of Mr. Howard.

Although Mr. Cumberland didn't fire the fatal shot, own the gun or the getaway car, he was convicted of first-degree murder in February 1994 and was sentenced to 40 years in prison two months later.

Maryland's Court of Special Appeals judges overturned Mr. Cumberland's 1994 conviction in March after they decided that Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. had improperly answered the jury's questions about the meaning of intent.

Jurors wondered whether Mr. Cumberland's desire for revenge after he and his friends were sold soap flakes rather than cocaine could be interpreted as intent, which is a key component of first-degree murder.

In March, appeals judges decided that Judge Beck's answer to the jurors was misleading and confusing.

Mr. Cumberland's statement to police on Jan. 30, 1993, was that he had become angry when his girlfriend was sold soap flakes instead of cocaine by a South Center Street drug dealer that evening.

Mr. Cumberland told police that when the couple and their two friends returned to the scene, he jumped out of the car, started waving a shotgun and began yelling. After he was persuaded to return to the car, he tossed the shotgun to Samuel Allen Miller, who shot Mr. Howard, Mr. Cumberland said.

Police have said that Mr. Howard, who was 22 when he died, had nothing to do with the original drug deal, in which Mr. Cumberland and his friend paid $40 for the bag of soap flakes.

During the 1994 trial, Mr. Howard was portrayed as a peacemaker who approached Mr. Cumberland and his friends moments before he was shot at close range.

Mr. Cumberland, 26, was transferred in July from state prison to the Carroll County Detention Center, where he is awaiting trial on the reinstated murder charges. Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold denied bail for Mr. Cumberland in a July hearing.

His co-defendants in the case -- Miller and Daniel Justin Leonard, who owned the car and the shotgun -- pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1993.

Leonard is serving 10 years in state prison; Miller is serving 30.

Mr. Cumberland's girlfriend, Robin Debra Cherry, committed suicide less than a week after he was sentenced to 40 years in prison. She was to have faced accessory charges.

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