CHESTERTOWN - A Kent County jury deciding the fate of a 20-year-old Eastern Shore man accused in the shotgun killing of an elderly black woman with his brother asked to be excused late last night after about four hours of deliberation.
The jurors will return at 9 a.m. today.
Earlier yesterday, Kent County Circuit Judge J. Fredrick Price threw out a hate-crime charge against Daniel R. Starkey in the shooting death of 73-year-old Germaine Porcea Clarkston, citing a lack of evidence.
Defense attorneys called only one witness and rested their case.
After closing arguments, jurors got the case about 7:30 p.m.
The fatal shooting of Clarkston followed a 20-mile chase that prosecutors say began as a case of road rage.
Shortly after his arrest Dec. 9, Starkey confessed that he was driving the pickup truck whose occupants harassed and followed Clarkston, her cousin Meriam Spriggs, 68, and Spriggs' daughter Michelle Wilson, 38, as the women returned to their rural neighborhood from a Christmas shopping trip Dec. 4.
His brother, David Wayne Starkey Jr., 24, whose trial is set to begin Monday, admitted to police that he aimed a double-barreled shotgun from the window of his brother's truck and fired the blast that mortally wounded Clarkston.
Defense attorneys Thomas McCarthy Sr. and his son, Thomas McCarthy Jr., have argued throughout the three-day trial that Daniel Starkey never knew that his brother would fire two shotgun blasts at Clarkston's compact car.
In closing arguments last night, Thomas McCarthy Jr. told jurors that prosecutors had built their case on crimes committed by David Starkey.
Throughout the three-day trial, the defense team has said repeatedly that it does not dispute most of the facts of the case - only its client's intent.
"They killed Mrs. Clarkston. There's no doubt about that, and there's no question it was a great tragedy," McCarthy said. "But this is a trial of David Starkey. This is about someone else."
In his hourlong closing argument, Kent County State's Attorney Robert. H. Strong Jr. placed a framed photograph of Clarkston and a double-barreled shotgun in front of the all-white jury of nine men and three women.
Calling jurors "the conscience of this community," he urged them not to accept the argument that Daniel Starkey was an unknowing or unwilling participant.
"If you buy this 'I was just too stupid to know,' it sounds like there was no moral decision-making at all," Strong said. "How could he have not known? How could he have not done something.? He could have stopped this at any time."
According to testimony from several police officers and to the Starkey brothers' written statements, the pair had spent the day deer hunting and drinking before encountering Clarkston's car, which was driven by Wilson. Angry at what they thought was deliberately erratic driving, they followed the car for 20.7 miles down dark country roads as the women made their way to their neighborhood of Georgetown, 7 miles from Chestertown.
"What that truck was doing was stalking," Strong told jurors. "Were these individuals in that car any different from the dead deer in the back of their truck?
"This was a continuation of the hunt, this was predator and prey."
McCarthy argued that a 911 cellular phone call placed by David Starkey minutes before the shooting, reporting that they were behind a drunken driver, offers clear evidence that the brothers, who are white, had no intention of harming the women.
The only defense witness to take the stand was David Starkey Sr.