Man who struck girl with car is convicted

Johnson could receive 22-year term

toddler suffered brain damage

May 01, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A 19-year-old East Baltimore man was convicted yesterday of speeding from a shooting scene and causing a car crash that left a 2-year-old girl with severe brain damage.

During the trial in city Circuit Court, jurors told the judge that glaring courtroom spectators made them fearful for their safety. They deliberated about four hours before convicting Terrell Johnson of the 500 block of Milton Ave. of assault and hit-and-run charges stemming from the June 15 car crash. But the jury acquitted Johnson on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and handgun violations in connection with the shooting.

Prosecutors said Johnson drove the car while an unknown accomplice got out of the car and fired into a crowd of people, wounding one man, Rodney Scott, 18, in the arm, where the bullet remains. Johnson could receive 22 years in prison at his July 1 sentencing.

The car crash occurred near the corner of McElderry and North Curley streets in East Baltimore. The child, Lourdes Robinson, and her baby sitter, Sheerita Wright, 47, were struck when a car speeding the wrong way on a one-way street hit a parked car and jumped onto the curb. Wright suffered minor injuries.

The jury heard three days of testimony before reaching its verdict. It was led from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies after the verdict, while courtroom spectators were instructed to remain seated for 30 minutes by Circuit Judge John C. Themelis.

Jurors had told Themelis that they were concerned for their safety, he said.

Assistant State's Attorney William F. Cecil said some of the courtroom spectators gave jurors intimidating looks during the trial.

"That's not unusual in this courthouse," Cecil said.

Johnson's lawyer, Stanley Needleman, said Johnson was not acting as a getaway driver when he hit Lourdes. He said he was speeding away from the shots because "he thought they [the gunmen] were firing at him," Needleman said.

"When he confessed to hitting the little girl he was crying," Needleman said. He added that Johnson wanted to plead guilty to injuring Lourdes.

Cecil said Lourdes, now 3, can't walk or talk, but her condition has improved "beyond anyone's wildest dreams." Initially, doctors said Lourdes would not survive.

"It's incredible how much she's recovered," Cecil said.

Described as an energetic little girl, Lourdes was spending the weekend with Wright, a family friend in East Baltimore, when the incident occurred.

Wright had just bought Lourdes a Popsicle at a convenience store on North Curley Street late in the afternoon. She held the girl's hand as they walked home.

She then heard what she thought were firecrackers, she said in an interview last year. After that, she heard people screaming and tires screeching around the corner on McElderry Street.

Wright then caught a glimpse of a large sedan hurtling toward them. It crashed into a parked Toyota, which vaulted the curb and struck Wright and Lourdes. Wright blacked out for a few seconds, she said. When she awoke, she saw Lourdes in a pool of blood.

Lourdes' brain was swelling quickly, and surgeons operated to reduce the pressure, removing a portion of her skull and brain.

Lourdes, who was named after pop star Madonna's daughter, was going to be the flower girl at her parents' wedding. Instead, her parents - Purnell Robinson and Latoya Herrington - spent what was to be their wedding day in the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital with Lourdes last summer. They could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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