Teen acquitted in trial

Murder case witnesses recanted part or all of taped statements


He is "Little Troy" in the streets, a teenager who in court documents admitted to supporting himself dealing drugs and who was charged with first-degree murder by age 14.

Yesterday, a jury acquitted Matthew Troy Johnson, now 15, of first-degree murder and handgun violation charges in the December 2004 shooting of Flenall Carter III, 19.

In an unusual show of emotion, the normally stoic teenager hugged his defense attorney after the verdict was read. "He was very happy... and relieved," said Margaret Mead, Johnson's attorney. "It's been frightening for him."

Yesterday's verdict followed a two-day trial before Circuit Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon in which the state's three witnesses denied all or parts of their taped statements to police.

"The verdict today points again to the state's attorney's concern regarding witnesses recanting and changing their testimony," said Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for the prosecutors' office. "This issue continues to affect our ability to successfully prosecute cases."

Johnson now faces a Jan. 9 hearing for drug and handgun charges in juvenile court. Prosecutors said they will try to transfer the case to Circuit Court so he can be charged as an adult.

Johnson's criminal history is extensive. According to court documents, he has been arrested 11 times as a juvenile and five times as an adult -- under three different aliases.

He dropped out of school in ninth grade and was on the run for nine months last year to avoid placement in a juvenile facility.

Johnson was charged with shooting Carter in the 4100 block of 10th St., near the Brooklyn Homes public housing complex. Assistant State's Attorney Tom Rafter argued that the shooting was sparked by a dispute over drug sales.

"Mr. Carter was making more on his sales," said Rafter in his opening statement. "That, ladies and gentleman, is Baltimore City."

But Mead told the jury that the three witnesses testifying for the state were akin to "the Three Stooges." All three were under arrest for other charges, after which they made statements to the police about the shooting. "Their main objective," she said, "was to get themselves out of trouble."

The state's three witnesses -- two of whom were being held on body attachment, a procedure that allows police to hold witnesses in jail so that they make it to trial -- denied all or parts of their taped statements with police.

One witness, Troy Green, 40, recanted a taped statement in which he said the shooting was over a feud between the Brooklyn Boys, a group Johnson belonged to that sold drugs in that area, and the Cherry Hill Boys, another drug crew.

On the witness stand, Green said his statement was a "lie" and that a map he drew of the crime scene came from his "imagination."

Green said he was a heroin addict and was going through withdrawal when he made his statement.


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