Jurors continue deliberations girl’s shooting case

Victim Raven Wyatt, 6, brought in to watch closing arguments

April 13, 2010|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

To prosecutors, Lamont Davis is a cold-hearted 17-year-old who fired into a crowded Baltimore street last July to settle a childish battle, without a care for the innocent people standing within his "danger zone."

To his defense team, he's a troubled teen who is wrongly accused of a shooting that left a little girl — Raven Wyatt, now 6 — in a wheelchair, unable to properly walk or talk, with a bullet lodged in her brain.

But jurors did not immediately adopt either side's version of the truth. They will resume deliberating Davis' fate today, after failing to reach a verdict in his attempted-murder trial Tuesday.

The well-publicized trial has been marked by changing stories and juvenile witnesses who testified while in custody for unrelated crimes. At its heart is a tiny victim whose life is forever altered. But it's also about adults and how they monitor — or fail to monitor — children they fear may harm others.

A $1 million GPS system launched last year to track some of Maryland's juvenile offenders, including Davis, has also been on trial this week and has had its flaws exposed.

The tracking system, sold and monitored by a Nebraska company called iSECUREtrac, is subject to dead zones, sometimes gives incorrect location information and can't always tell what time juveniles commit certain program violations.

Its GPS component, which is supposed to pinpoint a juvenile's location, is also only as reliable as the youths it monitors, requiring that they comply with certain rules.

"I'm not sure that iSECUREtrac could tell you where Lamont Davis is right now," Assistant State's Attorney Diana Smith said during closing arguments Tuesday, with Davis sitting a few feet away from her.

But defense attorney Linwood Hedgepeth said the system gives his client an alibi.

Davis is accused of getting into a fistfight with a teen-age boy known as "Reds," who insulted the 16-year-old mother of Davis' two children. Police say Davis brawled with Reds, then left and returned with a gun, opening fire on a Southwest Baltimore street. Raven, on her way home from the store with a relative, was struck in the head, and Reds was shot in a forearm.

"Two people were shot, but a whole lot of people was placed in harm's way," Smith told the jury.

At least four witnesses identified Davis as the shooter throughout the lengthy trial. But one teenage girl, who said she felt loyal to the defendant, later recanted.

Several others said another teen, nicknamed "Murder," was the one with the gun. On the witness stand Monday, Murder invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.

"Lamont Davis did not do it," Hedgepeth told the jury in his closing argument. He referred to Department of Juvenile Services records that showed Davis was in his home at the time of the shootings.

Davis, who turns 18 on Thursday, has a long list of juvenile arrests. In June, he was placed on the GPS monitoring system. It appears to show he was within 150 feet of his home when Raven and Reds were shot at 4:02 p.m. July 2.

Lisa Reynolds, director of community detention programs for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, testified for the defense Tuesday that records show Davis was not home at 12:15 p.m. the day of the shooting, but that he was back by 12:28. He remained there until 4:58 p.m., when he again left, violating program rules.

Smith countered that the time records are not reliable.

Both the defense and prosecution pointed to a police surveillance video to make their cases Tuesday. Hedgepeth claimed the video shows a shooter who is not wearing any type of ankle strap, which Davis wore as part of the GPS program. But Smith contended the opposite, suggesting that the video shows the shooter fiddling with something around his foot, which could be a strap.

The jury members will likely watch that video repeatedly while making up their minds. It shows the gunman, though he appears far away and fuzzy, and Raven, whose small body drops in the street.

"The most vulnerable of the vulnerable, the most innocent of the innocent," Smith said of the little girl, who watched closing arguments from the back of the courtroom where she sat next to her mother.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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