County prosecutors drop charges in alleged shooting Defendant, 57, goes free after other party, 23, declines to testify

January 14, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County prosecutors dropped charges against an Annapolis man yesterday because the person he allegedly shot declined to testify.

The defendant, Joseph Franklin Smallwood of the 900 block of President St., seemed delighted with the outcome, although he declined to comment. He had been charged with assault, two handgun violations and one count of reckless endangerment. He could have faced 25 years or more in prison if convicted.

Several of Smallwood's friends and relatives, who would not identify themselves, said, "God is good" and expressed happiness for Smallwood, whom they described as a friendly and helpful resident of the Harbor House housing complex.

"Obviously, with [the alleged victim's] decision not to testify, I was left without a witness," Warren Davis, assistant state's attorney, said outside the courtroom of Circuit Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. "When people fail to cooperate, the state is often left powerless."

The victim, Deboriah Sheppard of the 1100 block of Madison St. in Annapolis, had walked away from a county jail work-release lTC program at the time of the June 21 shooting and is in jail for violating probation. He had been convicted of battery.

Smallwood's defense would have been that he acted in self-defense after Sheppard picked an argument while Smallwood was working on his own car. The dispute concerned a female friend of Smallwood's. Neither the defense nor prosecution provided details.

"There was a very good self-defense argument, that he [Sheppard] was the one who initiated the aggressive behavior," said Smallwood's attorney, John Gunning, an assistant public defender.

Smallwood, 57, told police he shot Sheppard, 23, twice with his .32-caliber pistol "because he's in no shape to fight with younger guys, and he felt threatened," according to charging documents. He thought Sheppard had a gun, although he didn't see one, the documents say.

Nearly 70 of Smallwood's friends and neighbors sent letters to the court and signed petitions of support for him, saying the shooting was "totally out of character" for a man who took children to school and elderly people to doctor appointments.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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