A Howard County jury of seven women and five men will begin hearing testimony this morning in the murder trial of Frederick James Moore, the second of two men accused of fatally stabbing 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason more than a year ago.
Attorneys for both sides spent the bulk of yesterday selecting jurors to hear what is expected to be a week of testimony from up to 18 witnesses.
But although forensic evidence, including DNA testing, is expected to link Moore to the crime scene, it was unclear yesterday how prosecutors plan to tie the 22-year-old Baltimore man to the stabbing itself.
Moore's DNA could not be excluded as the source of a sample from nylon hair coverings found near Ashley's body in woods behind a Columbia Pizza Hut, and a witness at the trial of Scott Jory Brill, who was convicted in the fall of first-degree murder in Ashley's death, testified that Ashley was with Brill and Moore in the hours before her death.
But Moore gave no statement to police, and although Brill, who admitted to having stabbed Ashley "after she was dead," portrayed Moore as the instigator of the attack during interviews with investigators, hearsay rules prohibit prosecutors from using those statements to implicate Moore.
Moore's lawyer, Sheldon Mazelis, said yesterday that he plans to argue that although his client was with Brill and Ashley at the crime scene the night she died, Moore had no role in the killing.
"Other than putting Frederick Moore at the scene, there's nothing that the state can offer as real evidence, physical evidence, that Frederick Moore committed any crime, much less the crime that's been placed against him - first-degree murder," Mazelis said.
Prosecutors Michael Rexroad and Kim Oldham said they could not comment on the case yesterday.
Brill and Moore each were charged with a single count of first-degree murder in December 2000, six weeks after a delivery-truck driver stumbled upon Ashley's body after following a trail of blood from the Pizza Hut parking lot into the woods. The Columbia teen-ager had been strangled and stabbed 34 times, according to testimony at Brill's trial in October.
Moore, of the 6600 block of Eberle Drive in Baltimore, was arrested after investigators tracked down Brill, who told them he saw Moore stab Ashley and drag her into the woods. Brill later admitted that he had choked Ashley and stabbed her once in the stomach.
According to charging papers, Moore allegedly spoke to another person about his role in the crime. The identity of that person was unclear yesterday.
Brill, 19, could be given a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole at his sentencing March 20. Prosecutors have given notice that they intend to seek the same penalty for Moore if he is convicted.