Murder trial ends with hung jury

Man defends himself on charge of killing Columbia teen-ager

`Wasn't enough evidence'

Some jurors doubt state's witness, one on panel says

April 20, 2001|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

After six hours of deliberations, an Anne Arundel County jury emerged deadlocked yesterday from a murder trial in which the defendant muddled through, representing himself against an experienced prosecutor who had evidence that some jurors found unconvincing.

Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. declared a mistrial, ending a four-day trial of reluctant witnesses, objections and bench conferences.

Defendant Gerald Carvell Wallace, 23, of Glen Burnie, appeared stunned by Heller's words. But after Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen E. Rogers requested that he be jailed pending a retrial, he quickly said he wanted to be out on bail.

In the same breath with which he told Wallace that a bail hearing is likely to take place next week, Heller suggested that Wallace engage a lawyer the next time around.

Wallace is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and related counts in the October shooting and robbery of Jerome Isaiah Johnson, 18, of Columbia. Rogers described the victim as a youth smitten with a girl who lived in Pasadena's Freetown neighborhood. The Hammond High School graduate, who worked as a mattress salesman, had been drinking and tried to visit her early in the morning. But he was found dead at the end of Huff Road in Freetown, an easy target in the wrong place at the wrong time, Rogers said.

During closing arguments, Wallace told jurors that he was having a rough time defending himself. He decided against testifying in his defense. When he tried to testify inappropriately during closing arguments, Heller stopped him five times before Wallace gave up in frustration.

"I'm sorry for what is going on today. It's hard for me to talk to you guys," Wallace said in the apology that was supposed to be his closing argument. "The best I can do is try to tell the truth. But no matter what I do, I can't get it out."

Wallace presented little defense, mostly a garble of testimony by friends who said they did not know Wallace to be involved in the killing.

"What defense?" juror Brian Carner of Crofton, owner of an Internet service provider, asked after the mistrial. "It was like he went to a gunfight with a rubber knife."

Though they were hardly bowled over by the defense, jurors were not overwhelmed by the prosecution's case either.

The jury forewoman sent a note to the judge after six hours of deliberations saying, "Several of the jurors do not find the testimony of the eyewitness ... credible." She wrote that longer deliberations would not net a unanimous verdict.

"I thought the state had a weak case. There were too many holes, and there wasn't enough evidence," Carner said.

Eight jurors said Wallace was guilty. But two doubted he was and two were on the fence - and some of those wondered whether the prosecution's key witness was involved in the crime, Carner said.

The prosecution's case hinged on George Scott of Annapolis, an eyewitness who testified that he saw Wallace and Keith Lamont Mallett, 20, of Glen Burnie rob and pistol-whip Johnson, then saw Johnson fall backward when the gun fired.

Wallace called Scott as his witness, too, but Scott said Wallace annoyed him by repeating questions, and he advised that Wallace should not have had his face visible during the crime.

Mallett is scheduled for trial in September.

Families of the defendant and the victim declined to comment on the proceedings.

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