Murder trial goes to jury

Prosecution seeks death penalty in Dundalk killing

March 13, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,sun reporter

A Harford County jury began deliberations yesterday in the capital murder trial of a Baltimore man charged with killing a longtime friend two years ago after a night of heavy drinking and drug use in a Dundalk apartment.

In closing arguments, prosecutors urged jurors to convict 24-year-old Travis Davon Terry, saying that overwhelming evidence connected him to the fatal shooting of Edwin Lee Potillo and proved he was aware of his actions.

"He did this to a sleeping person, without provocation," said Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Garret Glennon. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty on the first-degree-murder charge.

Defense attorney Kay A. Beehler sought to raise doubt that Terry committed the crime, saying the evidence only showed that Terry was in the apartment that night. She also pointed to testimony from Potillo's girlfriend of four months, Jennifer Parvizimotlagh, who was shot in the incident.

Though Parvizimotlagh recalled that she smelled smoke after Potillo was shot and detailed how her attacker ordered her into a bedroom at gunpoint, she stopped short of identifying Terry as the assailant. They met for the first time that night, she said.

"She sits in her apartment for hours and hours and hours [with Terry] and cannot come in front of you and identify him," Beehler said.

In concluding her arguments, Beehler also indicated to the jury that the prosecution - at "very best" - could prove second-degree murder.

Glennon argued in his rebuttal that this amounted to an admission that, coupled with the evidence, was enough to convict on first-degree-murder charges.

Parvizimotlagh's testimony caused both sides to shift their approaches.

Prosecutors had planned to show jurors that the killing was premeditated, precipitated by an argument about Terry's use of Potillo's cell phone - an account based on Parvizimotlagh's comments to police. But she testified that there was no such dispute.

During final arguments, prosecutors said that Terry knowingly aimed the gun at Potillo's head and fired at close range, then ordered Parvizimotlagh into a bedroom, where he demanded cash from her purse.

Beehler said the lack of a confrontation provided "no reason, no motive and no provocation. The notion that he had this great grand plan to rob someone and it played out like he planned it - it makes no sense," she said.

Glennon said in his final argument that Parvizimotlagh's testimony proved that she was telling the truth. "She was honest. ... To say she's not sure, that shows she's credible," he said.

Though the charges were brought in Baltimore County, the case is being heard in Bel Air under a provision that gives defendants in a death penalty case an automatic right of removal to another jurisdiction. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox is presiding at the trial.

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