Jury finds Stanley guilty in stabbing death

He could face a maximum of 55 years in prison in August 2000 killing

Columbia

September 27, 2002|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

A Howard County jury found Rodney Maurice Stanley guilty just before midnight Wednesday of second-degree murder and two other charges related to the fatal stabbing of Thomas Jefferson Harding in August 2000.

The jury took nearly six hours to convict Stanley, 46, of murder, first-degree assault and second-degree assault for his role in a fight at his Columbia home. The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 55 years.

The jurors found Stanley not guilty of first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

During a Dec. 5 sentencing hearing, authorities will consider whether Stanley, who was twice found mentally incompetent to stand trial before being found competent, was criminally responsible for his actions. If he is not found criminally responsible, he could be committed to a mental institution.

Stanley, dressed in a dark brown suit and light brown tie, showed little emotion as the verdict was read in Howard County Circuit Court. His lawyer, Clarke F. Ahlers, later described Stanley as "disappointed" by the verdict.

"[Stanley] is a good man who needs medical help," Ahlers said.

Stanley stabbed Harding during an altercation Aug. 17, 2000, authorities said. An intoxicated and upset Harding barged into his apartment, Stanley said, and then tried to stab him with an 8-inch kitchen knife.

Stanley testified that he had refused to rent Harding a room and that Harding had been harassing him for several weeks.

Stanley said that he grabbed Harding's wrist and that they wrestled over the knife for about 20 seconds. Stanley said that he had control of the knife for only about six seconds and did not remember stabbing Harding.

Harding, who had a blood alcohol level of 0.23, suffered 19 wounds, including 11 slashes and eight stab wounds, some of which were 7 inches deep. Stanley was not hurt during the altercation.

After the fight, Stanley called 911.

While one witness said that she overheard the men discussing money, Stanley said he and Harding did not discuss finances.

Marcia Minor, a woman who was living with Stanley at the time, initially told police that Stanley acted in self-defense. But during the trial, she said she did not see the fight and that Stanley had told her to lie and that he had called her from jail several times with details she should add to her story.

Minor testified that she was frightened of Stanley, who she said would occasionally give her crack cocaine.

Minor, who avoided subpoenas for several days before trial and before being brought to court by sheriff's deputies Wednesday, also said that she had smoked crack cocaine several hours before the fatal stabbing.

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