Jurors retrace a trail of blood

Evidence from scene shown in effort to tie Lewis, two to deaths

June 03, 2000|By Jon Morgan and Marego Athans | Jon Morgan and Marego Athans,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

ATLANTA - Jurors in the murder trial of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis were led yesterday on a virtual tour of the crime scene by a detective who displayed gruesome photographs and blood-stained clothes.

The detective, Kenneth Allen of the Atlanta Police Department, described in excruciating detail what he found at the scene after he arrived about 4:30 a.m. Jan. 31.

Lying on the street was the body of Richard Lollar, a 24-year-old Decatur, Ga., barber who had died of stab wounds to the heart less than an hour earlier.

The barber's friend, Jacinth Baker, 21, also of Decatur, had been taken to a hospital where he would be pronounced dead. His brown work boots and bloody blue jeans had been left in the street as evidence by the paramedics who tried to revive him.

Loved ones of the victims, who have maintained a silent vigil in the audience behind the prosecutors, wept quietly as items were shown to the jury.

Prosecutors allege that the men were beaten and stabbed by Lewis, 25, and two men with whom he was celebrating the Super Bowl that morning, Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami, and Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and assault.

As the joint trial of the three completed its second week yesterday, prosecutors continued to scramble to bring in two people who were riding in Lewis' rented limo when it sped away from the crime scene.

Their account could be crucial to the state's case because a number of witnesses have fizzled on the stand, saying less than they had told investigators. Only one witness has testified that he saw Lewis strike anyone.

The judge has certified Eugenio Hutcherson of New York and Claudius Thompson of Inglewood, Calif., who could be ordered by courts in the states where they live to appear in Atlanta.

The men are asking for immunity from prosecution before they testify, and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is considering the requests. But defense lawyers have won the right to contest their appearance so late in the case, which means that Judge Alice D. Bonner might prevent them from testifying.

Prosecutors are also trying to recall Duane Fassett of Severn, who drove Lewis' limo. He endured a long day of testimony 10 days ago. He said he saw Lewis raise his fist but not strike anyone, and then he admitted that his hearing wasn't good.

Prosecutors want to show jurors earlier statements that Fassett gave police, in which he said he saw Lewis hit one of the victims and overheard Sweeting and Oakley talking about the stabbings.

The judge, however, has told prosecutors that Fassett needs to be in court to answer questions if Howard wants to introduce his earlier statements.

Prosecutors, who have lost a number of legal skirmishes in the case, were again buffeted yesterday.

Steve Sadow, an attorney representing Sweeting, went so far as to accuse Howard of "prosecutorial misconduct" and "goading" the judge to declare a mistrial that would give Howard a fresh start in the case.

Howard had been trying to elicit testimony from Allen about Lewis' failure to tell police that Sweeting had been with him during the street fight in which the Decatur men died.

The judge would not allow the testimony.

"When you fight for justice and what you think is right, you have to expect that sometimes decisions don't go your way," Howard said after court yesterday. "You have to keep moving forward."

Prosecutors spent the bulk of yesterday presenting physical evidence that they expect next week to link to the defendants. Jurors were shown a parade of blood-stained items, such as the pants that Baker wore, with his black leather belt strung through the belt loops.

A small folding knife found at the scene had no blood or usable fingerprints, but matched one of three knives Sweeting had purchased two days before the killing at an Atlanta-area sporting goods store.

From the limo, police recovered two pillowcases, a notepad and a white paper towel - all stained with blood - as well as the empty packages that once held the knives that prosecutors say are the murder weapons.

As paper bag after paper bag of evidence was opened, the courtroom filled with the scent of dried blood, prompting the court reporter - who was nearest the witness seat - to ask the detective during a break to bag the items in plastic.

Prosecutors also flashed on a large screen pictures of the limo's cargo area, packed with bottles of Corona beer, Remy Martin and champagne.

Allen testified to finding a gray fur hat at the scene. Previous witnesses have said Sweeting was wearing it that morning.

Allen also told jurors that the limousine interior had bloodstains throughout and that blood was also found in a hotel where the Lewis party stopped after the street fight. Later testimony is expected to show that some of the blood matched that of Baker, Sweeting and Oakley's. Lewis' blood was found at the hotel where he was staying that weekend.

A Ravens parking pass to PSINet Stadium was also found on the ground near the limo.

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