Murder-case witness unsure

In trial testimony, former correctional officer `cannot confirm' earlier statements she made about guards' assault on prisoner

September 27, 2006|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN REPORTER

An ex-correctional officer testified in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday that she could not remember which of her former co-workers attacked a detainee during a melee at the downtown booking center last year, contradicting statements she made shortly after the attack.

The former officer, Kene Jones, who was fired from the Central Booking and Intake Center in the aftermath of a fracas in which a 51-year-old detainee was killed, remained steadfast in saying she was unsure of the details of what she called a "chaotic day."

Prosecutors played for the jury taped testimony of Jones implicating Dameon C. Woods and James L. Hatcher in the attack on Raymond K. Smoot two days after the incident. Woods, Hatcher and Nathan D. Colbert are charged with second-degree murder.

Assistant State's Attorney Mark Cohen also handed Jones a copy of a report she wrote on the same day she recorded the tape, stating Woods stomped Smoot and Hatcher hit the detainee while he was on the ground.

In the tape, Jones also says Woods spewed profanities and taunts at other inmates while Smoot lay bleeding on the ground, saying this is what happens when "you cross an officer."

Jones remained unmoved and engaged in a combative argument with Cohen.

"You can say that I'm lying. You can say I've got a poor memory. I don't remember this," Jones said. "I remember writing this report. I cannot confirm whether this is true at this time."

Cohen asked Jones if she remembered discussing the case with him. "Don't even try that," Jones said. "You've been badgering me since July 2005. I never discussed this case with you on the phone."

Jones was the second officer to arrive on the scene after Smoot became belligerent with another female officer. When Smoot refused to go into his cell, a male officer arrived and got into a fight with Smoot, Jones testified.

Smoot punched the male officer with a closed fist, prompting Jones to call a Code 2, the highest call for backup, she testified. Jones said other officers rushed the cell while she tried to restore order in the common area.

Jones, in a report written the night of the attack, did not include Woods, Hatcher or Colbert as those involved in the beating of Smoot. Defense attorneys focused on a meeting, attended by Jones, that took place at another officer's house late the next night.

Andrew I. Alperstein, Hatcher's lawyer, said the defendants were not part of a clique of officers who socialized regularly outside of work and were not at the unauthorized meeting. Jones, who was part of the clique, said she left the meeting shortly after the conversation turned to what had happened at the jail the previous night.

The next day, Jones wrote the report that was read yesterday in court. Jones said she was pressured by investigators to give names or risk losing her job.

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