Reluctant witnesses testify in child-shooting case

March 30, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun reporter

Two teenage girls who told police that Lamont Davis mistakenly shot 5-year-old Raven Wyatt during a Baltimore street fight last summer were reluctant to repeat those statements in court Tuesday while the defendant and his supporters looked on.

One of the girls changed her story completely, claiming police had pressured her into making a false identification, while the other had to be ordered to answer questions. The judge determined the former teen was lying and threatened the latter with contempt charges if she didn't comply, which she finally did after a long pause, describing Davis, 17, as the person she identified months ago.

The judge ruled that the girls' identifications of Davis as the suspect can be admitted at trial.

Witnesses refusing to cooperate is a regular occurrence in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Of the half-dozen teens called to court to testify during preliminary hearings Tuesday, none were particularly obliging. One refused to testify, invoking his right to avoid self-incrimination. Another never showed up, leading Baltimore City Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin to issue a warrant for him. And yet another was given a "pre-trial civility lesson" by the judge to tame her tough attitude.

Even one of the officers had to be calmed down after he "took exception" to a defense attorney's questions. "You do not have the right to take exception," Rasin told him.

Still, lawyers were able to chip away at a long list of motions, which will determine what evidence can be shown to the jury. Already, DNA results showing that Davis cannot be excluded as a suspect are in, as are the earlier identifications of him as a shooter and statements he made to police. Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday after the pretrial hearings are cleared.

Prosecutors expect the case to expose holes in the juvenile justice system, including whether a $1 million GPS tracking system is a failure. Davis, who has 15 earlier arrests, was in a juvenile GPS monitoring program July 2, when Raven and Tradon Hicks, who turned 18 in January, were shot.

Police claim a fight broke out after Hicks spit in a girl's face and Davis allegedly ran to get a gun. Police say Davis shot Raven while aiming at Hicks, who was also shot. Raven was shot in the head and has been making a steady recovery over the past year.

Hicks appeared in court Tuesday, just as the girl he allegedly spat at was getting that civility lesson -- "basic lessons about how to conduct yourself," Rasin called them.

Hicks admitted he was shot, but added, "I ain't got nothing to say about that incident." When pressed further, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. It's likely he will be called again during trial, but this time with a grant of immunity, Rasin said.

The defense says Hicks was actually brawling with another boy, Maurice Powell, who goes by the nickname "Murder."

They plan to introduce statements claiming Powell was the shooter, not Davis. Powell was missing Tuesday, his attorney said. Rasin issued a warrant for him to be brought to court.

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