CHESTERTOWN - A Kent County prosecutor dropped hate crime charges yesterday against the second of two Eastern Shore brothers to face trial in the Dec. 4 shotgun slaying of a 73-year-old black woman.
In a racially tinged case that is being watched by local and state NAACP officials, David W. Starkey Jr., 24, is accused of shooting Germaine Porcea Clarkston as she and two companions drove home from a Christmas shopping trip. He faces first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault charges and could receive a sentence of life without parole.
State's Attorney Robert H. Strong Jr. contends that Starkey, 24, is a racist who fired two shotgun blasts into Clarkston's car.
Yesterday, Strong said he withdrew the hate crime charge because of rulings last week by Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Price in the trial of 20-year-old Daniel R. Starkey, who was convicted Thursday of second-degree murder and other charges in Clarkston's death. In that trial, an all-white jury was not allowed to hear testimony about racist tattoos worn by David Starkey, or about racial comments he is said to have made in cellular phone conversations immediately after the shooting.
"With a hate crime, you have a unique burden to prove motive," Strong said. "We're very convinced the hate crime would have been thrown out."
Linwood Clarkston Jr., the only son of Germaine Clarkston, said he is satisfied with the conviction last week of Daniel Starkey. Yesterday, he said his family is more interested in the outcome of David Starkey's trial than with legal maneuvering.
"I'm not trying to sensationalize anything," Clarkston said. "The only thing I'm concerned about is what the judge has to say at the end."
The brothers are accused of stalking the three women for more than 20 miles over dark country roads in Daniel Starkey's Chevrolet pickup truck after nearly rear-ending Clarkston's compact car, driven by her 38-year-old niece, Michelle Wilson, near the Starkeys' hometown of Millington near the Delaware border.
Just after dark on Dec. 4, the pair, who had been drinking for most of the day while hunting with friends, tailed the women until they turned into Georgetown, a historically African-American community. It was then, police and prosecutors say, that Daniel Starkey passed the small hatchback, enabling his brother to fire two heavyweight deer slugs from his double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun from the passenger window. Clarkston, hit in the hip, suffered extensive internal injuries and died at a Baltimore trauma center two days later.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Thomas G. Ross characterized David Starkey, a former Marine Corps sharpshooter, as being "young and dumb; he had an attack of the crazies." Instead of trying to kill the three women, Ross said, Starkey meant only to scare them. A faulty trigger on Starkey's shotgun caused the weapon to fire, he said.
Yesterday, a jury of nine men and three women, including one African-American woman, heard a repeat of the first prosecution witnesses who testified last week in the trial of Daniel Starkey.
Wilson and her mother, Meriam Spriggs, who also went along on the shopping trip, described how the pickup truck driven by Daniel Starkey harassed and followed them. Police officers and others described wounds sustained by Wilson and Clarkston.
The trial is expected to last until tomorrow or Thursday.