Jury deliberations start for accused `wheel man' in murder of educator

Teenage driver faces a possible sentence of life without parole


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September 13, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury began deliberations yesterday in the murder trial of Javon Clark, the teenager who drove the accused gunman to and from a Towson Town Center parking garage the night a St. Paul's School educator was fatally shot during a botched robbery attempt.

Jurors deliberated for four hours before Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz sent them home last night.

Clark, 18, faces a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree felony murder. The Middle River teen also is charged with attempted armed robbery.

During closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors and defense attorney Lawrence Rosenberg noted that the facts of the case were never in dispute: Clark drove the alleged gunman, John E. Kennedy Jr., to the mall Feb. 18 in search of a robbery victim and drove Kennedy away after the shooting.

Clark did not fire the fatal shot but was present when 58-year-old William A. Bassett was killed, the lawyers agreed.

What remained for jurors to decide was whether Clark willingly took part in a robbery attempt that turned deadly.

While prosecutors portrayed the teenager as a willing "wheel man" for a buddy, Rosenberg argued - and Clark testified - that Clark was forced to drive around with the butt of a shotgun aimed at his ribs.

"What we've got is an 18-year-old kid," Rosenberg told jurors yesterday. "This is a kid who [prosecutors] say should not and could not be scared out of his mind.

"They have to prove that he was not," he said.

But Assistant State's Attorney John Cox disputed Clark's description of a shotgun pointed at his torso. The gun would have been hanging out of the window, he said.

Clark also made no mention during a 30-minute police interview a few days after Bassett's killing of being forced to drive around at gunpoint, prosecutors said. Clark told detectives during the videotaped interview that since Kennedy had a gun, he didn't balk when told to drive.

If the teenager really was an "innocent dupe of John Kennedy," he would have told detectives about threats, said Deputy State's Attorney Stephen Bailey.

Clark and Kennedy, 18, of Essex, were arrested after a witness who had heard a loud bang coming from the mall garage jotted down the license tag number of a 1987 Mercury Cougar he had seen near the sound. The car was registered to Clark.

Kennedy, who also has been charged with first-degree murder, is scheduled to go on trial in December. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.

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