Jail officers' trial moved to Sept.

3 are accused of beating inmate to death

May 23, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

The trial of three correctional officers accused of beating to death Raymond K. Smoot inside his cell at Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center has been postponed until September.

Yesterday, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge said he needs more information before ruling on a defense motion for a change of venue.

Attorneys for Dameon C. Woods, Nathan D. Colbert and James L. Hatcher argued yesterday at a hearing that their clients would not be able to receive a fair trial in Baltimore.

The amount of publicity the case has received, combined with continuing allegations of problems at Central Booking - where people arrested in the city are often housed before trial - has tainted the city's pool of jurors, defense attorneys told Circuit Judge John M. Glynn.

Baltimore jurors, said Margaret Mead, Woods' attorney, would "come in with the mindset that that institution is running amok."

Mead and the other defense attorneys said they are concerned their clients will become scapegoats for all of Central Booking's woes.

Woods, Colbert, Hatcher and five others were fired after an internal investigation by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees Central Booking.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark P. Cohen countered at the hearing that few potential jurors in Baltimore even know the names of the three defendants. And no one in the public, he added, knows precisely what led to the 51-year-old Smoot's beating and stomping death last May.

Glynn agreed with Cohen but asked the attorneys to submit more information before he made a ruling. After the hearing, the trial was rescheduled for Sept. 19.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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