Police evidence allowed in child-shooting case

Taped statements, DNA tests stem from wounding of 5-year-old

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

A Baltimore judge on Monday said taped statements made to police, along with certain DNA test results, may be presented as evidence in the attempted murder trial of 17-year-old Lamont Davis, who's accused of critically wounding 5-year-old Raven Wyatt last summer while aiming a gun at another teenager.

The decisions came during the first round of preliminary hearings, which are expected to last days and push jury selection into midweek while attorneys for each side argue over what can be divulged during the high-profile trial.

The defense wants to suppress evidence it contends is misleading, including certain photo identifications, and is looking for permission to point to another young man as the shooter. Meanwhile, the prosecution wants to keep most of the data in, even though some of it reflects poorly on other state agencies.

The Baltimore state's attorney's office has said that a juvenile monitoring system, which the state paid $1 million for, is ineffective, and it's likely to become an issue at trial. Davis, who has 15 prior arrests, was under Department of Juvenile Services supervision and participating in a GPS program at the time of the shooting in July.

He has denied any involvement, though the state claims he's guilty and was caught on surveillance tape. Davis' attorney, Linwood Hedgepeth, interprets the blurry recording as showing that someone other than his client committed the shooting.

The back-and-forth is likely a hint of things to come. At the heart of the case is violence committed against - and by - children over a childish act: one teenage boy allegedly spitting at a teenage girl who has a child with Davis. Authorities say that led to a fight and the shooting.

Davis, who has been charged as an adult, will turn 18 next month. His alleged target, Tradon Hicks, was 17. And the actual victim, Raven Wyatt, was on her way to buy hair beads with a cousin when she was shot in the head while crossing the street. Now 6, she struggles with motor and speech control, spending five days a week in therapy at a pediatric hospital.

Even witnesses in the case are children, many under some kind of regulation for past criminal activity. Out of five such juveniles expected to be called as witnesses, one is on probation, one is in an adult detention center, one - Hicks - is in a Pittsburgh rehabilitation program, one is in a juvenile detention center and the last - Maurice Powell - is either on probation or some kind of community detention. It was unclear which in that case.

Hedgepeth wants to introduce statements that pin the shooting on Powell. That young man, about 17 according to his attorney, was supposed to appear in court Monday. But he didn't show and couldn't be located.

A juvenile court judge had issued a warrant for Powell's arrest Friday, alleging that the teenager had violated conditions of his community detention. And Baltimore Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin, who is presiding over Davis' case, said she would add her own warrant on top of that if Powell didn't appear in court this morning.

Much of Monday's proceedings were spent discussing how to get the juvenile offenders to court, though attorneys were able to argue two motions.

Hedgepeth had asked that DNA results from certain clothing items, such as a hat left at the shooting scene, be kept from the jury unless some kind of explanatory statistics are attached. The results essentially say that Davis cannot be excluded as a person with DNA on the items, but that he cannot be definitively included as a match.

"You really don't have any DNA proving anything," Rasin said. She didn't rule on Hedgepeth's motion to suppress the evidence, but left it to the attorneys to come up with language that can be presented to the jury and satisfy each of their concerns.

Hedgepeth also argued that Davis' statements to police, made in two separate recordings on July 4 last year, didn't count because his client wasn't properly informed of his rights. But after hearing testimony from two officers and listening to both recordings, Rasin didn't buy that, ruling in favor of the prosecution.

"They played it absolutely by the book," she said.

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