Case poses familiar challenges for jurors

Troubled teens, complex ties are factors in killing

`All elements' of city `tragedy'

July 22, 2005|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN STAFF

Before Christopher Richardson took his girlfriend out for an evening of shopping in Owings Mills, her mother had a request -- bring her daughter home at a decent hour. Richardson, 15, gave the mother $200 to ensure the girl's return, then drove to the mall with friends to buy clothing and shoes.

Richardson got his date home on time and got his money back. Minutes later, as he stood outside, prosecutors say he was shot five times and left for dead on the street in September. Police charged his girlfriend's cousin, Kevin Scott Jr., who was 14 at the time, with first-degree murder and said the motive was robbery.

In the first day of testimony in Scott's trial this week, a prosecutor and a defense lawyer warned jurors they were about to hear a complicated case involving "all the elements of a Baltimore tragedy" -- a killing involving troubled youths and convoluted relationships. The prosecutor said they could expect to encounter witnesses whose torn allegiances have changed their accounts of what happened that night.

Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Fraling told jurors in his opening statement that they will have to rely almost exclusively on witness testimony, which is often flawed. Police did not recover a weapon or much other forensic evidence.

"This is not CSI: Miami. This is not CSI: New York. This is not even `CSI: North Avenue,'" Fraling said.

Defense attorney Lawrence Rosenberg said Scott's cousin and aunt identified him as the shooter only after being pressured and manipulated by police, and he said he would show Scott was at a female friend's home at the time of the shooting. He also suggested that other men involved in an altercation with Richardson earlier in the day might be responsible for his death.

"There will be so many inconsistencies that you're not going to know who to believe or what to believe," Rosenberg said.

The case gained some notoriety when shortly after the killing, the victim's mother, Kimberly Howard, said in an interview that her son had been arrested and convicted for dealing drugs and had run away from home, violating the terms of his juvenile probation.

She had repeatedly pleaded with authorities to arrest her son, whom she described as developmentally disabled, saying he was safer in custody than on the street. State officials issued a warrant for Richardson's arrest the day he was killed.

On Wednesday, one of Richardson's friends, 20-year-old Harry Allen, took the stand, recounting how on the day of the killing the group had traveled from Cumberland to Baltimore to take Richardson's girlfriend, LaQuisha Anderson, 15, and another girl shopping in Owings Mills.

About 10 p.m., they dropped off the two girls at Anderson's home in the 2800 block of W. North Ave., and Richardson received his money back from the mother. Shortly after that, Richardson and Allen were standing alongside a car when, prosecutors said, Scott allegedly approached Richardson with a gun and told him, "Kick it out," a demand for money.

Richardson refused, and the two struggled. A shot was fired into the air. Allen testified Scott pushed Richardson away and then shot him twice. Scott ran 20 feet away, Allen said, before returning and shooting Richardson three more times. Allen said he panicked and ran.

"That was the first time I've seen someone get killed right in front of me," Allen told the jury.

Allen identified Scott to police and said he had met Scott prior to the incident. But he told Rosenberg he did not know Scott's name until being informed yesterday by the prosecutor.

Yesterday, Fraling played a police tape recorded in the hours after the crime, in which the victim's girlfriend, Anderson, said she did not know who did the shooting. He then played a tape recorded later that same afternoon in which Anderson identified Scott. She said she did not tell police initially because she believed Richardson's family would think he was set up.

Rosenberg said in his opening statement that her statement to police as well as Scott's aunt, Shanae Brooks, were the result of intimidation by Richardson's family and police.

Additionally, Rosenberg said he plans to call a female friend of Scott's, as well as her father, who will testify that Scott was at their home at the time of the shooting.

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