A man who pleaded guilty last fall to his role in the shooting of an Edgewood cabdriver testified yesterday that he was in the back seat of the vehicle just moments before his alleged accomplice shot the driver in the head.
Wearing a bright orange prison jumpsuit and stroking his goatee, Darrell Levon Miller, 21, told his account of the crime when he took the stand during the murder trial of Wayne Lavon Bond Jr. in Harford County Circuit Court. Miller told the jury that he and Bond, 18, were instructed by a high-ranking member of the Bloods gang to call a cab and rob the driver.
"We had to do what he say," Miller said. "If not, we'd be in violation."
Miller testified that on Dec. 8, 2004, after he and Bond climbed into the vehicle, Bond held a .38-caliber revolver to the head of the driver, 37-year-old Derald Howard Guess. After Guess handed over $20, Miller said he exited the car and heard a gunshot as he ran away.
Bond, who was 17 at the time of the crime, has been charged with first-degree murder and could face life in prison.
In a sometimes tense cross-examination, public defender Eric P. Macdonnell called Miller a "thief, a murderer and a liar" who would say anything to get a better sentence. Miller pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a 45-year sentence in September contingent on his testimony against Bond.
"Is it true that you're a murderer?" Macdonnell asked.
"I pled guilty to my participation in the crime," Miller said.
"You didn't plead guilty to conspiracy to commit murder. You pled guilty to murder," he said. "So you're a murderer."
Macdonnell noted that Miller's statements to police changed several times, though Miller said he always maintained that Bond was the shooter. Miller also said he hid the murder weapon under a backyard grill and that his fingerprints were on it.
Miller, whose case did not go to trial, appeared to relish his time on the stand yesterday. Slumped in his chair, he casually told jurors about the inner workings of the Bloods, and later sat up and made sweeping hand gestures as he detailed the robbing of Guess.
His testimony gave a glimpse of Guess' last moments. Miller said Guess put both hands in the air and said he only had $20, offering to show his logbook as proof. The father of nine was working extra shifts so he could buy Christmas presents for his family.
"He was scared. He was talking real fast," Miller said. "He reached under the seat and he come up with the money."
After the gunshot, the cab accelerated and plowed into a truck more than 200 feet away. A neighbor testified Monday that she thought there had been a car accident and called 911.
A theme of the trial has been gang activity in Harford. Yesterday, Miller said he was a Blood "soldier" and that Bond was a recruit. To join the group, prospective members have to withstand 31 seconds of punching and shoving from three to 10 members.
"They don't want nobody soft," Miller testified. "They want you to be gangsta at all times, no matter what. It's survival of the fittest."
His testimony also seemed to support the assertion from local police that the suburban gang members are mimicking urban criminals, though their numbers are not nearly as strong.
Miller is being held at the Kent County Detention Center because of concern for his safety. Visible on his baggy prison jumpsuit was another Bloods trademark: five points, scrawled in pen on his right shoulder. The words "Soldier Boy" could be seen written across his back.