Officer 'marked' his killer, prosecutor tells jurors

Defendant in murder trial testifies he was hit by stray gunfire

state argues detective returned gunfire during robbery try

August 29, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,melissa.harris@baltsun.com

By returning fire and wounding his assailant in the leg, Detective Troy Lamont Chesley Sr. "marked" Brandon Grimes as his killer, prosecutor Kevin Wiggins told a Baltimore jury yesterday during closing arguments in the first-degree murder trial.

"Troy Chesley shot the person who tried to kill him," Wiggins said. The prosecutor walked to the witness box, sat down in it and, taking on Chesley's persona, spoke into the microphone: "Brandon Grimes murdered me."

On the final day of the two-week trial, Grimes took the witness stand in his defense, saying that he had been at his girlfriend's house on the night of the shooting, went to meet a friend, Kelly Carter, in a patch of woods nearby, and then suddenly "shots rang out." He was hit in the leg.

Grimes, 23, is accused of fatally shooting Chesley, who had just gotten off a late shift, on the officer's front porch in what prosecutors believe was a robbery attempt. Police believe Chesley, 34, got a shot off and wounded Grimes.

The trial - already a high-profile affair because it involved the killing of a police officer - became the first in which a defense attorney questioned DNA evidence from the Baltimore City crime lab in the wake of reports of contamination there.

But yesterday's testimony centered not on questions of forensic science but on Grimes' explanation of how he was wounded by a bullet from the officer's gun.

Grimes, 23, couldn't tell the jury where he was, how many shots were fired, where they came from or why. Grimes also couldn't explain why, after being shot, he walked into the woods and passed several houses where he could have gotten help, and why he told medical personnel that he had been robbed.

When Wiggins asked how he could have been robbed when none of his possessions was missing, Grimes responded: "They [tried to] rob me of my life."

Some jurors snickered.

Grimes' testimony directly contradicted two nearly identical accounts of the evening given on the opening day of the trial by Carter and Joshua Morris, Grimes' friend. Both testified that they saw Grimes with a distinctive pistol - a 9mm semiautomatic Sig Sauer equipped with an extended clip and laser-targeting device - during the 12 hours before the shooting.

"This is a business gun," Wiggins said, holding the pistol up for the jury to see. "His business was murder."

Carter testified that she watched Grimes get out of his green Dodge Caravan in Northwest Baltimore and turn the corner. She heard shots seconds later. Believing Grimes had been shot, she pulled the van around the corner onto Fairfax Road, saw no one, circled the block and then heard Grimes calling out from the woods asking for help.

Morris testified he helped Grimes get into the van, and then Carter drove to the hospital. Carter testified that Grimes wouldn't tell her what had happened.

Relying on a bloodhound, detectives traced Grimes' blood from the crime scene on Fairfax Road through the woods and around the block to Westchester Road, where Carter testified she found Grimes. Police found the Sig Sauer halfway through the trail.

During closing arguments yesterday, Grimes' attorney, Roland Walker, assailed the character of Carter and Morris and attempted to paint Morris as the killer.

Walker accused Morris of being a gang member and of fabricating the story about watching Grimes show off the gun to another man in their neighborhood about 12 hours before the shooting. He also pointed out Morris' two convictions for drug dealing.

He asked members of the jury to consider whether they would trust Morris enough to lend him $100 and expect to get paid back. If not, "why would you trust him" now, Walker asked.

As for Carter, Walker said he wondered why the mother of three was "running around" at 1 a.m. smoking marijuana with a "gang member."

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