Defendant in killings should lose that smile

February 21, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

My cousin Nate had exactly $145.46 left in his Bank of America account.

The night of Jan. 10, 2005, he withdrew $140 to help his friend and housemate Antwon Arthur pay a $300 drug debt. Nate walked with at least one man to a Bank of America automated teller machine in the 2500 block of N. Charles St. and withdrew the money at exactly 7:40 p.m. Then he and the man or men returned to the recovery house in the 500 block of W. 27th St. where Nate lived with Arthur and several other men. Nate handed Arthur's debtor the $140.

Then he died.

Nathaniel Gulliver, Antwon Arthur and Steven Matthews - all residents of a recovery house - were fatally shot. Shawn Brown leaped out of a second-story window, but not before he was wounded. A fifth man escaped unharmed, at least physically.

Last week, Derrick Taylor, the man charged in those killings, finally went to trial. Corey McMillon, who is serving a term of life plus 20 years for a murder not related to what I've called the "recovery house witness elimination murders," has also been charged in the case and will be tried separately. Inshalla "Lisa" Owens, who was initially charged with murder, is now a witness for the state.

Taylor's trial continued yesterday with homicide Detective Charles Bealefeld and a state medical examiner testifying for the prosecution. Brown and Owens testified last week. Sharon A. H. May, Taylor's attorney, was to present her client's defense yesterday. I wasn't there for it, but from what I could gather from May's questions during cross-examination, I think Taylor is going with the unoriginal but still standard S.O.D.D.I. defense:

Some Other Dude Done It.

I don't know whether Taylor done it or some other dude done it. I do know that Taylor is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that every other defendant gets. That doesn't change just because he's accused of killing one of my first cousins. (I hope our esteemed governor, so fond of proclaiming defendants guilty before they've gone to trial, is reading this.)

No, I'm going to take Taylor at his word. He didn't do it. Some other dude done it. So why was Taylor the first time I saw him - at a hearing on a defense motion to suppress a photo array in March 2006 - smiling when he came into the courtroom?

Why was he cheesing and grinning in court yesterday at two women sitting in the back of the courtroom who cheesed and grinned right back and blew kisses at him?

Let's recap: Taylor is accused of a triple homicide. He's accused of the attempted murder of Shawn Brown, who has testified that Taylor is the man who shot Antwon Arthur in the head the night of Jan. 10, 2005. Owens, his girlfriend who was living with him at the time, has testified that he went to that recovery house in the 500 block of W. 27th St. to collect a drug debt from Arthur.

Unless Taylor has some secret plan, things ain't looking too good for the guy at this point.

And remember, I'm assuming Taylor is, as he claims, innocent. If that's true, then he stands falsely accused of committing a horrendously heinous crime in a city where heinous crimes have become the norm. Derrick Taylor should be absolutely livid. He sure as heck shouldn't be grinning in a courtroom where he's being tried for three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and handgun charges.

If Taylor is innocent, then he's just too goofy to realize the gravity of the situation he's in.

Eyewitness identification and testimony have been known to be highly unreliable, as any criminal lawyer worth his or her salt knows. There is no physical evidence linking Taylor to the crime scene at the recovery house. May made it a point to drive that fact home yesterday as she grilled Bealefeld during her cross-examination.

The killers who roam Baltimore's streets are either too stupid to know the pitfalls of eyewitness identification and testimony or they just don't care. My cousin Nate and Steven Matthews had nothing to do with Antwon Arthur's drug beef. They just happened to be in the recovery house when somebody - perhaps Derrick Taylor, perhaps not - decided they deserved to die.

For witnessing a killing related to a piddling $300 drug debt.

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