Cowdery jurors yet to reach verdict

Deliberations to resume Monday in killing of officer

March 30, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

After deliberating for 8 1/2 hours over two days, the 12 members of a Baltimore jury could not agree yesterday on whether Howard "Wee" Whitworth killed a Baltimore police officer on an East Baltimore street last March.

They have listened to 12 days of testimony and almost three dozen witnesses who helped re-create and analyze the night that Officer Michael J. Cowdery Jr. was ambushed and gunned down with a bullet to his head.

Judge Marcella A. Holland asked jurors to return Monday to continue deliberating.

During the trial, prosecutor Donald Giblin portrayed Whitworth, 27, as a "drug dealer and a cold-blooded cop killer." Assistant public defenders John P. Markus, Harun Shabazz and Patrick Kent contended that their client is a victim of mistaken identity.

Dozens of people stood outside Room 227 in Courthouse East waiting for the verdict all day yesterday, most of them police officers and relatives of the defendant and the victim.

Cowdery's father, Michael J. Cowdery Sr., sat with his wife, Constance, and daughter India.

"I'm a bundle of nerves, sitting on pins and needles," said Cowdery, a 28-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force. "I wonder what can possibly be going through the mind of the jury? In my mind it's perfectly clear."

The defendant's uncle, Ricky Handy, who was there with Whitworth's mother, Vera Coleman, said his nephew is innocent.

"I think it should go in his favor because the police have too many holes in their story," Handy said.

Since jurors started deliberating at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, they have come back to the judge with three questions.

The first two were procedural. The third was a request to see the taped testimony of four witnesses from the trial:

Rachel Rogers, an admitted addict, drug dealer and prostitute whom Cowdery fell on when he was shot. Rogers is the only witness to identify Whitworth as the killer.

Corrections officer Tierre Brownlee, who testified that Whitworth told him in the hospital that he had shot Cowdery because he thought Cowdery was a "stick-up boy" trying to rob drug dealers on the street.

Officer Tiffany Walker, who testified that after Cowdery was shot in the leg, the assailant walked over to him and put a bullet in his head as he lay on the sidewalk.

Detective Ronald A. Beverly, Cowdery's partner, who was shot in both legs while chasing a man he thought to be Cowdery's killer.

Holland agreed to let them view the tape Monday.

Prosecutors said the incident started just after 10 p.m. March 12, 2001, when Cowdery and colleagues Beverly, Robert Jackson and Walker were questioning three people outside a Chinese food carryout on Harford Road.

The plainclothes officers wore police badges around their necks.

A man appeared suddenly and shot Cowdery in the leg from 10 to 15 feet away, then walked over and shot him above his left ear.

After the first shot rang out, everyone ran for cover except Cowdery and the shooter.

When Beverly looked back in the direction of the shot, he said, he saw a man in dark clothing lean over Cowdery, then run away.

Beverly gave chase, and the two shot at each other.

The man, later identified as Whitworth, suffered five gunshot wounds that nearly killed him, according to medical testimony in the trial.

Whitworth testified this week that he did not kill Cowdery. He said he was on his way to buy beer and sell drugs that night when he happened into a gunfight. A police officer chased him and shot him, believing he was the killer, Whitworth testified.

Sun staff writers Kimberly A.C. Wilson, Jamil Roberts and Michael Stroh contributed to this article.

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