Key witness to testify at Howard murder trial

Prosecution hopes to link accused, handgun


September 21, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A key witness in the trial of a Jessup man accused of a fatal shooting in a Columbia hotel is expected to testify this morning, with both the defense and the prosecution depending on him to help make their cases.

The state is hoping that Lorence Smith, 22, will be able to link the weapon used in the Jan. 13 shooting to the accused. The defense hopes to prove that Smith could be a suspect.

The weapon, believed to be a .40-caliber Glock handgun, has not been recovered. But Smith is expected to testify that Shamal Ira Chapman, 21, who is accused of the shooting, told him that he got the gun during a burglary.

Chapman is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and related charges in the shooting at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Long Reach High School senior Andre Devonne Corinaldi, 18, was killed and Lauren Nicole Perkins, 18, of Elkridge was seriously injured.

Chapman, of the 6700 block of Old Waterloo Road, is accused of shooting a gun through two closed doors between adjoining hotel rooms during a birthday party with an estimated 20 to 40 guests, many of them uninvited.

The trial in Howard Circuit Court, which began Tuesday, is expected to end by late next week.

Four shell casings recovered at the scene match casings from a Glock stolen from Chapman's neighbor, said Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy. Also, witnesses have told investigators that they saw Chapman carrying a black gun a week before the party, she said.

But the defense contends that Smith is the most likely person to have done the shooting at the hotel on Stanford Boulevard.

While arguing before Judge James B. Dudley yesterday about appropriate questions for Smith, Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere explained that she believes Smith knew the details of the burglary in which the Glock was stolen because he committed it.

No arrests have been made in the Feb. 3, 2000, burglary.

In Tuesday's opening statements, DeBoissiere told jurors that they would have to determine whether they believed Smith's story.

DeBoissiere said yesterday that Smith has been charged in the May burglary of a trailer in Laurel, Anne Arundel County. That crime, she said, was very similar to the break-in in which the Glock was stolen. Smith has not been tried on that charge.

But Dudley ruled yesterday that the defense cannot disclose that information to the jury or ask Smith if he was charged with the crime. The judge ruled, however, that the defense can ask Smith if he broke into the trailer in Laurel.

Smith was not among the partygoers who were handcuffed by police at the shooting scene and questioned.

Many of the guests fled the scene before police arrived and are unaccounted for. But DeBoissiere said she will present witnesses who will testify they saw Smith at the party.

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