Jury in murder-for-hire trial retires for night Closing arguments made in Harris case

April 01, 1997|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

The jury in the murder-for-hire trial of Robert Dwayne Harris went home last night without reaching a verdict, after a defense attorney criticized police work in the case as shoddy and the prosecutor called Harris a con man with "an explanation for everything."

Jurors began deliberations about 3: 45 p.m. yesterday, after hearing closing arguments that summed up a week's worth of testimony about the slaying of Harris' fiancee, Teresa Lynn McLeod of Pasadena.

Harris, 24, is accused of hiring Russell Raymond Brill to kill McLeod so that he could benefit from her life insurance policies. McLeod, 27, was shot six times Jan. 26, 1996, in the parking lot on Joh Avenue in Violetville, a Southwest Baltimore neighborhood. Harris was shot in the leg that night; he has told the jury that Brill robbed and shot the couple on his own, rather than pay for a gun Harris was selling him.

Harris is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, solicitation and using a handgun in the commission of a felony.

Brill, who has been sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, testified that Harris shot his fiancee himself when Brill could not.

In closing arguments yesterday, Harris' attorney, Rodney Gaston, attacked evidence brought forward by the prosecution as unreliable. He questioned why shell casings from bullets fired that night had been lost. He noted that the prosecution failed to provide the dates when meetings between Harris and Brill to set up the killing were supposed to have occurred.

"Isn't there doubt in this case? Isn't there doubt all over this case?" Gaston asked.

Prosecutor Ahmet Hisim said there was not.

Calling the defense attorney's argument "smoke," he turned the jury's attention to a tape of a 911 call Harris placed after the shooting. "His own words convict him," the prosecutor said. "What you heard on that call was not a man who just got robbed. You heard a man who was angry."

Hisim said that testimony showed Harris had waited a full 10 minutes after McLeod was shot to call police.

"He's waiting for her to die," Hisim said.

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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