Jury nears deliberations in slaying retrial 1994 conviction was overturned

November 07, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

After hearing a week of testimony, a Carroll County jury is expected to begin deliberating this morning whether Timothy Cumberland was responsible for the death of a 22-year-old Westminster man in 1993.

The killing of Gregory Lamont Howard, who was shot near midnight Jan. 28, 1993, on Center Street in Westminster, was Carroll County's first drug-related slaying. Police have described Mr. Howard as a young man trying to restore peace after a drug deal went bad.

He was shot at close range with a shotgun when he approached the car Mr. Cumberland and three friends were riding in. Mr. Howard had nothing to do with the drug deal, in which Mr. Cumberland paid $40 for a bag of soap flakes instead of crack cocaine, police have said.

The jury must decide in Mr. Cumberland's retrial -- his 1994 conviction was overturned -- which portrait of Mr. Howard they wish to accept. Prosecutors said the man was a bystander killed in cold blood by a man eager for revenge.

"This victim got in the way of this man's [Mr. Cumberland's] anger," prosecutor Clarence W. Beall III said during his closing arguments yesterday. "If there was one person that you could remove to save Gregory's life, that would be the defendant."

Public defender Judson K. Larrimore said Mr. Howard -- described as a young man made cocky after consuming too much alcohol -- contributed to his own death by tugging on the shotgun after Mr. Cumberland entered the car to leave.

Mr. Cumberland did not fire the fatal blast, own the weapon or drive the getaway car, but he did get out of the car and wave the shotgun around like a club, an action that his attorney conceded yesterday was stupid.

That thoughtless action, however, does not mean he intended to kill anyone, Mr. Larrimore said.

"One consistent thing in the demonstrations and descriptions is that he [Mr. Cumberland] never pointed the gun at anyone," Mr. Larrimore said, adding that his client then got in the car and handed the gun to Samuel Allen Miller. The gun went off in Miller's hands.

"That is consistent with someone who is trying to make a show," Mr. Larrimore said. "Someone trying to say 'I'm a big, bad person and you can't rip me off.' "

Mr. Cumberland, 26, of Reisterstown is facing for the second time charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault and battery, and carrying a dangerous weapon.

Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold dropped a conspiracy charge yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Cumberland was convicted of first-degree murder in February 1994, but the conviction was overturned in March when appeals judges decided that Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. had given jurors a confusing definition of intent.

His co-defendants -- Miller and Daniel Justin Leonard -- both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September 1993. Miller, who fired the fatal blast, is serving 30 years in state prison. Leonard, who owned the shotgun and drove the car, is serving 10 years.

The fourth occupant of the car, Robin Debra Cherry, was Mr. Cumberland's girlfriend at the time. She committed suicide in 1993, less than a week after Mr. Cumberland was sentenced to 40 years in prison on the initial murder conviction.

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