Defendant in killing of officer says he tried suicide

January 08, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A man who could receive the death penalty this month -- only the city's second capital case in the past nine years -- testified at a pretrial hearing yesterday that he attempted suicide the night he was arrested in the execution-style killing of a Baltimore police detective.

"I was emotionally overloaded," said Jovan J. House, 22, who is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 27 for the killing of Thomas G. Newman. "I tried tying something around my neck."

House testified that when he was left alone in a police interrogation room for several hours, he tied a strap around his neck. Police quickly came into the room and called paramedics to check on House, who declined medical attention.

House and co-defendants Raymond Saunders, 23, and Anthony A. Brown, 35, are charged with first-degree murder. The men -- who have pleaded not guilty -- will be tried separately, with House scheduled first.

Prosecutors have said they believe House and Saunders were the triggermen and are seeking the death penalty for the pair. Brown, who they say drove the getaway car, could receive life in prison.

Police say three men ambushed Newman, a 12-year- veteran of the force, outside Joe's Tavern in Southeast Baltimore on Nov. 23, 2002. The motive, prosecutors and police say, was retaliation against Newman for testifying against Saunders' half-brother, who was convicted of shooting the detective during an ambush in April 2001.

In pretrial motions, defense lawyer Mark A. Van Bavel argued to block several pieces of evidence from being introduced. Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. denied his motions.

Van Bavel wanted the judge to bar from trial House's taped statement to police, which the lawyer contended was coerced. In that statement, House told police that Saunders handed him the gun that was used to kill Newman, and that it was Saunders who pulled the trigger.

The alleged murder weapon, which was stolen in a robbery before Newman's death, was found with House when he was arrested hours after the killing, according to testimony.

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