Maurice Blevins was found guilty yesterday of murdering 3-year-old James Smith III in a West Baltimore barbershop in a January shooting that outraged a community battered by violence.
A Circuit Court jury deliberated for less than four hours in the case and also found Blevins guilty of assaulting the boy's mother, Cheryl Whittington, 24; of attempting to murder Kenya Davis, 21; and of three handgun violations. He showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but Whittington, sitting in the rear of the small courtroom, cried softly.
Minutes before Blevins was convicted of first-degree murder, she said she was sure he killed her son and she wanted "some closure."
"Ever since it happened, I haven't had a decent night's sleep," she said.
Bill Giuffre, the assistant state's attorney in the case, said the crime "was such a huge tragedy that this was the only possible justice."
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29, and Giuffre said he would seek the maximum penalty -- two life sentences plus 45 years in jail.
After Blevins was led out in handcuffs, his attorney, Stanley H. Needleman, said there was a "definite possibility" that jurors looked at the crime and not the facts when they made their decision.
"I just think the enormity of the tragedy was something that could not be overcome," he said.
Earlier in the weeklong trial, several witnesses said that Blevins, 20, started a shootout Jan. 2 in the Fresh Cuttz barbershop on South Carrollton Avenue when he fired at Davis. James, who had turned 3 that day and was waiting for a haircut, was shot in the head in the cross fire.
Whittington and Davis were injured.
Blevins and one of his friends testified that Davis shot the first bullet.
Several hours before the verdict in the murder case, Davis was sentenced to three years in jail for possession of a handgun.
He originally was charged with attempted murder, reckless endangerment and handgun violations in the case, but those charges were dropped.
His sentence will run concurrently with an 18-month sentence he received Jan. 18 for violating his probation by having the gun.
During the trial, Needleman maintained that Davis was the killer and had been cut a deal to testify against Blevins, of the 1100 block of W. Lexington St.
Yesterday, he said his client fired his gun out of self-defense after Davis shot at him, and he said the state had nothing but theories to prove Blevins killed the boy.
"They might be viable, but that's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," said Needleman, who said tests were not done to determine whose bullet killed James.
The state's argument was that Blevins fired one bullet, which went through Davis and Whittington and hit James, killing him. Expert witnesses testified that they had not conducted forensic and other tests to determine which bullets went through which victims.
But Giuffre reminded the jury that a .45-caliber bullet fell out of James' black knit cap, which had one hole in it, when police picked it up. The gun Davis had was a 9 mm; Blevins used a .45-caliber weapon, Giuffre said.
"Every piece of evidence cries out to convict that man," he said.
Pub Date: 8/12/97