Murder-trial jury deadlocked

Defendant accused of avenging death of his brother, 14

July 18, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

After three days of deliberations, a Baltimore jury deadlocked yesterday in the murder trial of a man prosecutors accused of doing what the criminal justice system failed to do: punish the murderer of his little brother.

After retired Circuit Judge Thomas J.S. Waxter declared a mistrial, Assistant State's Attorney James Francomano said that he would retry Darnell Edmonds, 25, in the killing of Kenneth Worrell, 28, of the 800 block of Bethune Road in Cherry Hill. Worrell was found dead in that block with multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body in December 2006.

In August 2006, a jury acquitted Worrell, a man known in the neighborhood for violence, of murder in the 2004 stabbing death of Edmonds' 14-year-old brother, Keyyon Makins. But the jury did convict Worrell on a weapons charge, and Circuit Judge Wanda Heard sentenced him to three years in prison.

On the witness stand last week, Edmonds said that the state got it wrong in 2004 and was continuing to do so now. Edmonds said that Worrell did not stab his brother; a man known as "Poochie Pie" did, according to his attorney. She also said her client did not support Worrell's trial and attended only one day of the proceedings.

"Ken Worrell had 'thug life' tattooed over his chest, and the 'i' in 'life' was in the shape of a bullet," said Edmonds' attorney, Maureen Rowland. "He had a gun tattooed on his upper chest, and a cross on his back with a snake wrapped around it, and the words 'made man.' There were a lot of people who would want to kill him."

However, on the witness stand, Worrell's siblings said they had heard Edmonds make a threat against their brother, according to Francomano's closing argument. The prosecutor argued that their testimony showed that the killing was premeditated.

But three jurors said the problem was that the siblings - who did not see or have direct knowledge of the crime - were the only witnesses that were believable.

"When the evidence was presented, all of the witnesses, except for the victim's brother and sister, had some type of charge hanging over them," juror Joanna Wooten said. "They had something to gain by testifying."

Wooten also said that the testimony of the prosecution's only eyewitness was vague. She described seeing the shooter's mouth and nose, but not his entire face, Wooten said. The eyewitness also once described the shooter as wearing a black hoodie and another time as wearing a gray one, Rowland said.

"Her testimony also contradicted the medical examiner," Rowland said. "She said that the shooter pointed the gun at Worrell's chest at close range. The medical examiner testified that he was shot in the back and not at close range."

The jury further questioned the eyewitness' motivations after she testified she was a recovering drug addict who had once been abused by Edmonds, juror Micah Wainwright said.

He said he did not know whether there was anything Francomano could have done to improve the case.

"They can't change the quality of their witnesses," he said.

But he also remarked that the trial left the impression that the state's goal of getting a known "criminal" off of the streets, and not the evidence in the case, was driving the investigation.

Wooten said she questioned why the detective selectively tape-recorded interviews with witnesses. "It made me think of the Salem witch trials," she said.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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