Expert on DNA testifies at trial

No blood from Cowdery or Whitworth found on gun that killed officer

March 27, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

The gun used to kill Baltimore Police Officer Michael J. Cowdery Jr. last year had no evidence of blood from him or from the man accused of killing him when it was tested by a state crime lab, a Maryland State Police DNA expert testified yesterday.

Lawyers for Howard "Wee" Whitworth called the witness as they tried to show Whitworth never had possession of the gun that killed Cowdery on an East Baltimore street in March of last year.

Prosecutor Donald Giblin has portrayed Whitworth, 27, as a "drug dealer and a cold-blooded cop killer," while defense lawyers John P. Markus, Harun Shabazz and Patrick Kent contend their client is a victim of mistaken identity.

On the rainy night of the killing, Cowdery was with several of his colleagues questioning three people outside a carryout restaurant on Harford Road. The officers were not in uniform but were wearing police badges around their necks.

A man appeared suddenly and shot Cowdery in the leg, a prosecutor said, then walked over to Cowdery and shot him in the head as he lay on the sidewalk.

Detective Ronald A. Beverly, who was with Cowdery that night, chased a man from the scene, and the two shot at each other, he testified this week. The chase ended when the man collapsed on the sidewalk on Cliftview Avenue, about two blocks from where Cowdery was killed.

When the man - later identified as Whitworth - collapsed, he dropped his gun, Beverly testified. A .357 Magnum handgun found next to where Whitworth collapsed was identified by ballistics experts as the gun that fired a bullet into Cowdery's head.

Yesterday, the defense brought in Meredith Monroe, a forensic chemist with Maryland State Police, who testified about the lack of DNA evidence on the gun. Monroe testified she found DNA on the gun from three unidentified people, none of them Cowdery, Whitworth or Beverly.

But when Giblin cross-examined Monroe, she said that the rainy conditions that night could easily have washed away fresh blood or sweat that would have left traces of DNA, while still leaving any previous, caked-on DNA.

The prosecution has established there were no fingerprints on the gun because the rain would have prevented prints from forming. The defense has suggested that police were lax in managing the crime scene and let the gun lie in the rain, possibly washing away prints and DNA.

Testimony continues today.

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