New trial granted to man convicted of killing rival gang member

Judge hears testimony about misconduct by jurors, including Internet searches of defendant's criminal record

September 12, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A 28-year-old Gwynn Oak man, the first defendant to be convicted under the state's gang law, has been granted a new trial.

Dajuan Marshall, who was found last month to have killed a rival gang member in 2008, will get another chance before a jury following a decision Friday by Baltimore Circuit Judge L. George Russell III, who presided over the first trial. Russell vacated Marshall's conviction after hearing testimony from jurors about misconduct on the panel, including an allegation that a juror performed an Internet search on Marshall's prior criminal record.

Russell noted that despite the state's presentation of "overwhelming evidence" of Marshall's guilt, a defendant is entitled to a fair trial, and there was no option but to declare a mistrial and grant a new one. A date for the new trial was not set.

"This is quite a disappointment, since Marshall was our first gang case," Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said in an e-mail on Saturday. "But we'll try the case again."

Marshall was convicted on Aug. 9 of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and participation in a criminal gang resulting in death. Jurors heard four days of testimony and deliberated about a day and a half before reaching a verdict. Marshall faces a maximum sentence of life in prison on the murder conviction, plus another 20 years for the gang verdict.

He was the first defendant convicted under the state's 2007 gang statute, which was updated this year. Marshall, who prosecutors said was a member of the Spyda Bloods gang, was found guilty of killing Kenneth "Cash" Jones, 26. Jones belonged to a rival set of the local Bloods, known as the Pasadena Denver Lanes, prosecutors said. Jones' body was found in the 4500 block of Bonner Road on June 9, 2008. He had been shot in the head multiple times with a large-caliber handgun, police said.

Several jury members were called back into court to testify about the misconduct on the panel. The judge heard testimony that at least three jurors had failed to disclose during jury selection that either they or their relatives had been victims of crimes, according to notes taken at the hearing by a member of the prosecutor's office. In one case, a juror's child was killed in a violent act, a fact that was not brought up until the panel's deliberations on a verdict.

One juror told the judge that another jury member had looked up Internet records about the case during testimony, an allegation that the judge found "most concerning."

"This is a failure of the jury," the judge said, according to the notes. The juror, he went on, "failed to follow instruction."

Other jurors were said to have used cell phones or computers to look up potential sentences associated with various charges. Marshall's defense attorney, Roland Walker, said last month that the Internet research could have influenced the jurors' views of the defendant.

Jurors in criminal trials are invariably instructed to decide cases solely on evidence and testimony presented to them in court.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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