Trial begins for man in fatal party shooting

Gunfire at Annapolis hall in 2002 left one man dead

December 11, 2004|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County prosecutor told jurors yesterday that an Annapolis man was the one who shot up a birthday party at an American Legion hall two summers ago, killing one man and sending dozens of partygoers fleeing.

"What was supposed to be a day [of celebrating] birth was a day of death," Assistant State's Attorney Sandra Foy Howell said in her opening statement in the first-degree murder trial of Mario Jermaine Kaskins, 22.

But Kaskins' public defender said that his client wasn't in the hall when Damon Michael Rhodes, 32, was gunned down the night of Aug. 10, 2002, at the complex on Forest Drive in Annapolis.

"You can't see someone who isn't there," said William M. Davis in his opening statement before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Michael E. Loney. Davis also cast doubt on the sole witness who identified Kaskins as the shooter.

Kaskins has been held without bail since being arrested and charged in Rhodes' death April 8. Police initially had arrested Calvin Watkins of Annapolis after witnesses named him as the shooter.

In her opening statement, Howell said the incident began shortly after 11:30 p.m. during a birthday party for three women at the hall.

A fight began between Rhodes and an unidentified man, Howell said. A few moments later, Kaskins pulled a gun from his waistband and fired a shot through Rhodes' neck, the prosecutor said. The shooter then fired multiple shots into the ceiling as a crowd of at least 60 people fled, said Howell.

Among the witnesses yesterday was Felicia Chew, 29, who testified that she stood 10 feet from Kaskins when he drew a weapon and shot Rhodes. After Rhodes fell, Kaskins and Chew made eye contact, she said.

She testified that she withheld information from police even after learning that Watkins, a cousin of Chew's, was arrested in connection with Rhodes' death a few hours after the shooting.

Davis pounced on Chew's admission that she lied to police at least four times until she signed a statement Dec. 5 last year incriminating Kaskins.

"I was afraid," Chew said. "I didn't want to get involved."

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