Defendant loaded shotgun, girl testifies

She says he planned robbery that left man dead

March 29, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,

Though a street-tough kid and a gang member, Ronald McConnell was incapable of planning a murder, much less taking part in one, according to his attorney.

But prosecutors described the 22-year-old Columbia man as being bent on revenge and ordering a robbery that resulted in the shooting death of Jason Batts on May 17.

Though investigators say he didn't squeeze the trigger of the sawed-off shotgun that killed Batts, McConnell was charged three days later with first-degree murder, first-degree assault and attempted robbery. A prosecution witness told a jury last week that she saw McConnell load the shotgun and heard him plan the robbery - or "lick," in the lingo of the Bloods gang to which they belonged - that resulted in another gang member, Lamont Johnson, shooting Batts.

McConnell's trial, which got under way last week before Howard Circuit Judge Lenore Gelfman, is scheduled to resume Monday and could go to the jury by midweek.

Batts, a 23-year-old Columbia resident, was not the intended target, but he was driving the SUV also occupied by Elijah Jackson and his sister, Ebony. A year earlier, prosecutor Lisa Broten said, Elijah Jackson told police that an unregistered firearm found during a traffic stop involving him, Batts and McConnell belonged to McConnell. During her opening remarks, Broten contended that "in the world of the Bloods, this is being called a snitch" and that an angry McConnell vowed payback.

Spencer Gordon, McConnell's attorney, countered that "Mr. McConnell is not a model citizen. He is not a saint. While gangs today are associated with violence and similar activities, it does not mean that every member is a coldblooded killer."

In last week's testimony, the prosecution's first key witness was a 16-year-old teenage girl from Owings Mills. Her name is being withheld at the request of prosecutors because of concern for her safety. The girl, who was 15 at the time of the murder, testified that she, Johnson and two other gang members from Baltimore County went to Columbia to meet up with McConnell and his friends.

The girl said the purpose was to rob Elijah Jackson, who she was told was a drug dealer.

They were joined by two other Baltimore County gang members, Daymar Wimbish and a man nicknamed "NY," as well as an unnamed Columbia man who knew the area and Jackson's hangouts, the teenage girl testified. Jackson was spotted getting into Batts' SUV outside a Columbia sports bar. With "NY" driving, the group followed the SUV to an Oakland Mills apartment complex. There, the teen witness said, she was told by Johnson to engage Jackson and his friends in conversation.

A few minutes later, she said, Johnson and Wimbish appeared, and Johnson pointed the weapon inside the open rear passenger window where Ebony Jackson was sitting. Johnson announced a robbery, telling the occupants not to move, she said. When one of them did, she said, Johnson fired twice. The teen witness said she, Johnson and Wimbish ran back through woods to their car. After Ebony Jackson went for help and called police, she noticed Batts slumped on the ground.

Elijah Jackson fled and later told his sister to tell police that he was not in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, she testified. Ebony Jackson and Batts' mother, Deborah, a Baltimore County detective, testified that neither Elijah Jackson nor Batts belonged to a gang.

Gordon pointed out several inconsistencies between the girl's testimony and what she told police in June, including that McConnell had pulled the trigger. The girl said she lied to police because she thought she might be arrested and Wimbish had threatened to harm her family.

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