After hearing five days of testimony and nearly three hours of lawyers' closing arguments, a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury began deliberations yesterday evening in the trial of a Randallstown High School student charged in the May shootings at the school.
But there was no quick verdict, and Judge Patrick Cavanaugh sent the panel of 10 women and two men home for the night at 10:20 p.m. They are to resume work this morning.
Matthew Timothy McCullough, 18, is accused of firing into a crowd of students outside Randallstown High on May 7 as a charity basketball game was letting out. The shootings left one student partially paralyzed and three others injured.
In closing arguments yesterday, lawyers on both sides said the school shootings amounted to no less than a tragedy.
Prosecutor Stephen Bailey told the jury that it had been a "long road" from the afternoon when a fistfight on Randallstown's parking lot between McCullough and his three friends and the dozens of students outside the school ended in gunfire. "What started as mayhem," he said, "has to end with justice."
Defense attorney Timothy M. Dixon cautioned jurors against holding McCullough responsible for the shootings by what he called "guilt by association."
"I'm not going to make any excuses for Matt's behavior that day," Dixon said. "It was a stupid thing to do," the defense lawyer said. "But that does not make him guilty of the crimes he is accused of."
Witnesses testified that a dispute had been brewing between McCullough and a football player. Witnesses said McCullough returned to school twice, once with his brother and a group of unarmed friends and later with three different friends who brought a loaded 9 mm semiautomatic Glock pistol.
Tyrone Devon "Fat Boy" Brown, 24, pleaded guilty in September to attempted second-degree murder and a handgun charge for the shootings and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Another man, Antonio Richard Jackson, 21, is awaiting trial.
Acknowledging that they don't know whether McCullough or Tyrone Brown fired the bullets that struck four students, prosecutors focused on state law regarding "accessory liability."
They highlighted the testimony of three students who said they saw McCullough pointing a handgun at students - including two who said they saw him shooting - and explained to jurors that they can find McCullough guilty of attempted murder even if they aren't sure that his shots hit anyone.
But Dixon, the defense attorney, questioned the motives and vantage points of the three eyewitnesses.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors downgraded the most serious charges against McCullough from attempted first-degree murder to attempted second-degree murder.
If convicted on all charges, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison on each of four attempted-murder charges and up to 20 years on each of four handgun offenses. He also is charged with four counts of first-degree assault, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.
The charges correspond to the four students injured in the school shootings: William "Tippa" Thomas III, Andre Mellerson, Alexander Brown and Marcus McLain.