Security guard sticks to story during pretrial testimony in Harris case

Defense tried to poke holes in testimony of man who identified 2 suspects in surveillance video

August 31, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A security guard who identified two suspects in the killing of former City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris stuck to his story Tuesday during pretrial motions, even as defense lawyers tried hard to rattle his recollection of the events.

In his second consecutive day on the witness stand in Baltimore Circuit Court, the guard, Germyn Murray, insisted that he knew two of the men seen leaving the scene of Harris' murder in a surveillance video were Charles Y. McGaney and Gary A. Collins. He had known them for months, he said, because they often hung around the Northeast Baltimore strip mall where Harris was shot and had gotten into trouble there for loitering and disorderly conduct. He described the two men as "thugs."

McGaney, Collins and a third man, Jerome Williams, face trial this week on first-degree murder charges and other counts in the death of the former city official. Retired Baltimore Circuit Judge David Ross has been reviewing evidence since Monday in pre-trial hearings, which included Murray's testimony and a move by the defense to disqualify DNA evidence. The latter motion was denied Monday.

Harris was shot Sept. 20, 2008, during a holdup at a jazz club in the Northwood Shopping Center, but managed to drive away before collapsing from his injuries. The club's owner and several patrons were robbed at gunpoint of cash and other items, and as they left the premises, three men were recorded on video by cameras at nearby businesses.

Murray, the security guard, was not present at the shooting but said from the stand that he had watched the surveillance video on a television news program a couple of days later. He said he immediately recognized McGaney and Collins, the latter for his "distinctive walk." Asked to elaborate, he said Collins was "slew-footed," a term given to a foot that is turned out, or pointed outward.

Janice Bledsoe, an attorney who represents Collins, questioned how Murray would have known such a term, and he replied that his 11-year-old daughter is pigeon-toed, which means she has a foot turned inward. In the course of seeking medical treatment for her condition, he said, he had learned about other kinds of deformities of the feet.

Bledsoe repeatedly asked the witness how far her client's foot was turned out. Murray replied four times with the same words, "I can't determine how far," but he did not waver from his conclusion that the foot belonged to Collins.

The two men were no strangers to security guards at the strip mall, Murray said. "They were verbally warned on numerous occasions" about their behavior, he said, and were arrested at least once for loitering and acting disorderly after he reported them.

Jason E. Silverstein, a lawyer for McGaney, asked why it had taken him 45 days to tell the police that he recognized two of the men in the video. Murray said he had been afraid because the suspects were "thugs."

"Honestly, I have a family," he said. "I feel for them as well as for myself."

Silverstein asked whether he had decided to call the police after he had surpassed his fear. "I never got over my fear," Murray replied.

Finally, he said, he concluded that calling the authorities about the two men "was the right thing to do."

Jason E. Silverstein was misidentified in earlier versions of this article. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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