Widely divergent explanations offered at murder trial opening Dead man called victim by 1 side, inciter by other

January 26, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Attorneys in the murder trial of a Baltimore man yesterday offered markedly different versions of how a fight over a neighborhood basketball game turned into death in the street.

A key question emerged during the first day of the trial of Elijah Davis Jr.: Was Tony Alexander McKoy shot fighting for a gun or running away?

Mr. McKoy was two days shy of his 30th birthday when he died May 8, a couple of hours after he and Mr. Davis had finished playing basketball at the Crispus Attucks Recreation Center in West Baltimore.

In an opening statement, prosecutor Lawrence Doan told jurors that Mr. McKoy was trying to make peace between Mr. Davis and another member of the basketball team -- Timothy McCants, who was informally coaching that night -- when Mr. Davis took a handgun from the trunk of his car and shot the fleeing Mr. McKoy.

By the end of the trial, the prosecutor said, jurors would conclude that Mr. Davis is "number one a murderer, and number two a coward."

But Mr. Davis' lawyer, William M. Monfried, says his client was defending himself from Mr. McKoy, who had gotten hold of Mr. Davis' gun.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke condemned the killing at the time, saying it showed how ready access to guns could turn a minor scrap into a deadly one.

The defense attorney told jurors the dead man was a drug addict who that day begged Mr. Davis for money. After the game, the lawyer said, Mr. McKoy asked Mr. Davis to take a walk with him, started choking Mr. Davis and asked why he'd gotten into a quarrel with Mr. McCants.

Mr. Davis shook that off, then walked back to his car to change clothes. As he dressed inside the car, he left the trunk open. Next thing he knew, Mr. Monfried said, Mr. McKoy was pointing the gun.

"The victim in this case pointed the gun at my client," Mr. Monfried said. "[Mr. Davis] thought he was going to be shot. My client grabs his arm, and only his arm. As he was literally trying to break his arm, the gun went off."

The defense attorney said witnesses would testify that after Mr. McKoy was shot, he staggered off with the gun still in his hand, along with a bundle of money he took from Mr. Davis' trunk. He said his client left the scene at that point because he was afraid he would be accused in the shooting.

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