Testimony is halted in trial of teen-ager in the killing of mare

Master raises questions about an immunity offer for a co-defendant

Case will resume April 10

March 28, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Testimony in the trial of a Howard County teen-ager accused of being involved in the fatal shooting of a pregnant thoroughbred mare last fall was halted yesterday while court officials debated whether prosecutors could offer one of his co-defendants immunity for testimony.

The 17-year-old from Mount Airy is the second of three teen-agers to appear in juvenile court in Howard County on charges stemming from the Sept. 27 shooting of the mare.

Unlike the first teen - who pleaded guilty last month to firing the shot that killed the mare named Madi Lou at Pleasant Prospect Farm in Glenwood - the 17-year-old elected for a trial in front of Juvenile Master Bernard A. Raum.

But prosecutors ran into problems when they tried to offer the first teen's testimony against the 17-year-old boy. The Sun is not identifying any of the boys because they are juveniles.

Although the first youth pleaded in the Howard County case, all three face charges in Montgomery County that stem from the wounding of a second horse, Minx, at Camp Waredaca on Damascus Road the same day, according to testimony yesterday.

Raum said that if the first teen-ager decides to invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination in the Montgomery case, he could not testify at all - even about the Howard case.

That pronouncement left prosecutors scrambling to research immunity issues and Joseph Murtha, the 17-year-old's attorney, to ask if Howard County officials really intended to offer immunity in the Montgomery case to the alleged "shooter." The immunity would prevent others from using his testimony against him, a prosecutor said.

By the end of the day, prosecutors, saying the issue needed more research, asked for a two-week postponement. The 17-year-old's family left court saying, "This is ridiculous." Testimony is scheduled to resume April 10.

The youth is charged with a felony count of killing a horse used for racing, breeding or show, as well as charges of cruelty to animals, malicious destruction of property and conspiracy to kill a horse.

Yesterday's juvenile court action was the latest chapter in a case that court officials said sparked pleas from citizens who said they wanted to make sure the case was taken seriously.

State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon said her office has received more than 80 comments from people who said they were concerned about the violence against the horse.

According to testimony yesterday and in the first teen-ager's case, the three Howard youths left Glenelg High School early Sept. 27 and decided to drive around. They went to one teen's house and got a 12-gauge shotgun. They then drove into Carroll County, where they bought two boxes of ammunition - rifle slugs and buckshot, according to a statement the 17-year-old gave to the investigating officer.

The 17-year-old told police that when the boys reached Jennings Chapel Road, the teen-ager who pleaded guilty pointed the shotgun out the window and fired, killing Madi Lou, according to testimony.

On Feb. 6, the first teen was found "involved" - the juvenile equivalent of guilty in the Howard County case - on the felony charge of killing a horse used for racing, breeding or show and sent to the Charles H. Hickey School in Cub Hill for 90 days. Raum said at the time that he would review the placement near the end of the stay.

The third teen-ager is scheduled for trial next month. The shotgun belonged to his family, according to testimony yesterday.

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