Prosecution in Harris trial lays out case in closing arguments, with photos, DNA charts
From Sun reporter Nick Madigan, covering the trial of the three men accused of killing former City Councilman Kenneth Harris:
A prosecutor trying the case of three men accused of killing Kenneth N. Harris launched this morning into an impassioned assertion of the state’s case against them, and used every evidentiary weapon at her disposal to argue for their conviction.
The defendants came “locked and loaded” to commit a crime, Assistant State’s Attorney Cynthia M. Banks told the jury as she looked at the defendants, Gary Collins, Charles McGaney and Jerome Williams, sitting in the courtroom in downtown Baltimore.
Banks projected onto a screen an image from a slightly out-of-focus surveillance video that included the captioned names of the defendants with an arrow pointed at each of the men — Williams on the left, Collins in the middle and McGaney on the right — as, Banks said, they walked away from the camera shortly before the hold-up on Sept. 20, 2008.
The use of the defendants’ names on the screen prompted an immediate objection from Jerome Bivens, a lawyer who represents Williams. “Your honor, you need to see this,” Bivens said, referring to the fact that the screen, facing the jury, was out of the judge’s range of sight. After a conference at the bench, the judge, David Ross, allowed Banks to proceed.
She then showed an array of other images taken both outside and inside the New Haven Lounge, where the hold-up occurred, displaying for the jury a detailed timeline of what she said were the defendants’ actions during the robbery, again with names and arrows for each. The killing of Harris, a former Baltimore councilman who was shot as he tried to flee in his car, was not captured on video.
Banks described how Harris and his friend Keith Covington, the club’s owner, emerged from the building’s front door after the New Haven had closed for the night. “The moment they walk out that door, they’re ambushed, from the left and from the right,” the prosecutor said. One of the assailants led Covington back inside with “a gun pointed to the back of his head” while another followed Harris to his car, where his female companion awaited.
Using the digital-clock displays from the videos, Banks timed the movements of Williams, the man she said was the gunman, and estimated that “the murder of Mr. Harris took 23 seconds” before Williams joined his accomplices inside the club.
“If Kenny gets away, the 911 call is going to be made, you know that,” Banks said. She then referred to Covington’s testimony that, the moment the gunmen appeared, Harris uttered an expletive and blurted out the name of his wife, Annette, who was not the woman in the car.
“He’s thinking about his wife,” Banks said. “He’s thinking about his family. He may not have been a perfect man, but his last thought was about his family.”
As Harris was being chased down and shot, the other two defendants “continued with their primary goal of robbing the Haven,” Banks said. “They didn’t stop. They didn’t miss a beat.”
Meanwhile, she went on, “Ken’s dying — he’s bleeding out.”
After going through the actions of the perpetrators inside the club, where employees were robbed and the safe emptied of some $2,000 in cash, Banks went to the crux of the state’s case, the DNA evidence left behind on items carried, worn and touched, she said, by the three defendants.
Traces of the men’s DNA were found on bandanas, surgical gloves, a coat and a Halloween mask, all of them linked with varying but irrefutable degrees of probability to the defendants’ biological make-up, Banks said. She acknowledged that their fingerprints were not found at the site of the robbery, but said it was because all wore gloves throughout, a point that the defense has contested.
The three defense lawyers will have a chance to rebut the state’s allegations when he court session resumes this afternoon.