Appeals court reverses conviction of man in city police shootout

Darryl A. White Jr. was accused of weapons charges in 2008 incident in which two men died

March 24, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's Court of Special Appeals has struck down the conviction of Darryl A. White Jr. on weapons charges stemming from a 2008 shootout with police in which two men died outside a Fourth of July party in Southwest Baltimore.

In the judges' opinion, there was not enough evidence to prove that White was armed or that he knew the two men with him were armed and that they intended to use the weapons against the police.

White, 25, will not be retried. Mark R. Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney, said that because the appeals court based its reversal on insufficient evidence, prosecutors are barred from trying him again.

White was the sole survivor among a trio who had attended a raucous party in a union hall near Carroll Park in the early hours of July 5, 2008. As the men were leaving, Raemond P. White, 21, and another man, Haywood T. White, 18, fired several shots into the air to celebrate the holiday, according to an account of the incident from three police officers sitting in a patrol car nearby. Police said they were not sure whether the three men were related.

The three then got into a white Ford Taurus "to evade arrest by the police," as the lone survivor later admitted. The police car pulled up behind the Ford, at which point shots were fired through its rear window toward the police officers, they later recounted. The Ford then sped away, made a U-turn and headed for the officers.

"Shots were still being fired from the car as it was moving," according to the judges' summary of the state's case. "The officers could not identify who was shooting from the front seat. The officers continued to fire shots at the white car until the shooting from the car ceased when it crashed into a parked car."

Darryl White, who had been sitting in the Ford's front passenger seat and was shot in the hand, was ordered from the car and arrested. Haywood White was found in the driver's seat, gravely wounded by a bullet in the head. He and Raemond White, who was in the rear seat and had been shot in the chest, died later. The three officers — James L. Brooks, Christopher D. Ahearn and Bernadette C. Mosher — were unhurt.

A .45-caliber Colt handgun was found in Haywood White's pants pocket, and a .40-caliber Sig Sauer pistol was recovered from the trunk of the car, which had ended up in the middle of Hamburg Avenue, across from the union hall.

None of the officers saw Darryl White with a handgun, and no weapon was found on or near him, according to the judges' opinion. "He was not tested for gunshot residue, and DNA testing from the Colt was inconclusive," they wrote.

White, who lived in West Baltimore's Greater West Hills neighborhood, was charged with more than 20 counts, including attempted murder of the three officers, assault, possession of marijuana, use of a handgun in a crime of violence and discharging a firearm. On Dec. 8, 2009, a jury convicted him of four weapons charges — all related to carrying a gun or conspiring to do so — and acquitted him of the remaining counts. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Feb 4, 2010.

In his appeal, White argued that because there was no evidence that he was the "primary actor in any crime," his convictions were based on the theory that he had aided and abetted his accomplices. But that premise was baseless, White said, maintaining that there was no proof that he knew that the other two men possessed or intended to fire a weapon, and the appeals court agreed.

The judges cited a precedent in saying that in order to prove a charge of aiding and abetting, a defendant must "assist, support or supplement the efforts" of another person, and "instigate, advise or encourage" the commission of a crime.

"The only conduct that the state points to for evidence was that White got into the car knowing that two handguns would be transported," the judges wrote. "We find that it is insufficient."

In addition, the judges wrote that they did not think the jury "could have inferred that White was the shooter merely because gunfire was coming from the front of the car and the car was in motion." They said the jury was clearly "not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that White ever fired a weapon."

White has not been released yet from prison. The state attorney general has the option of filing a petition asking the Court of Appeals to review the judges' reversal.

In December 2006, White was indicted on eight charges in another case, including armed robbery, assault and theft. None of those counts was prosecuted.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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