State calls wit­nesses in mur­der trial

De­fen­dant charged with slay­ing West­lake stu­dent

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW RICHARD­SON arichard­son@somd­

The state was con­tin­u­ing to call wit­nesses as the trial for a man charged with mur­der for the fa­tal shoot­ing of a West­lake High School stu­dent con­tin­ued into day three, as of press time Thurs­day morn­ing.

Dea­van Quin­del Jef­fer­son, 20, of Bal­ti­more is con­test­ing the charge of first-de­gree mur­der for the death of Reuel Hicks, 18, a se­nior at West­lake High School, who he re­port­edly shot in the head af­ter a drug deal — in­volv­ing $20 worth of mar­i­juana — went awry in Oc­to­ber 2016, court pro­ceed­ings showed. Pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve Jef­fer­son had in­tended to

rob Hicks of the mar­i­juana, while the de­fense ar­gues that Jef­fer­son acted in im­per­fect self-de­fense, that Hicks and two of his friends had in­tended to rob Jef­fer­son be­hind the AMC movie the­atre near St. Charles Towne Cen­ter in Wal­dorf.

For the bet­ter part of the day, Oct. 26, 2016, both Hicks and Jef­fer­son had been hang­ing out around the mall with friends in sep­a­rate groups, pro­ceed­ings showed. While at the food court, a friend of Hicks was ap­proached by Jef­fer­son, who asked to buy mar­i­juana, the friend tes­ti­fied. Hicks’ friend said he knew of Jef­fer­son as an ac­quain­tance, and asked Hicks if he could sell him mar­i­juana.

Jef­fer­son, whose friends stayed be­hind, fol­lowed Hicks and two of his friends away from the food court, and be­hind the AMC the­atre to a se­cluded area to avoid draw­ing at­ten­tion from mall se­cu­rity, Hick’s friend tes­ti­fied. He told the court that as he and the other friend car­ried on a con­ver­sa­tion close by, Hicks and Jef­fer­son be­gan to ar­gue dur­ing the ex­change, which made them turn around and look.

“Seen the gun come out. It was like a stand-off, and then he shot him,” said Hick’s friend.

Just be­fore Hicks was shot, he said, Hicks told Jef­fer­son, “If you’re go­ing to shoot me, then shoot me,” and he did so with­out hes­i­tat­ing, and then walked away with­out say­ing any­thing. Jef­fer­son was ar­rested shortly af­ter as po­lice searched the area. Po­lice also re­cov­ered a .380 cal­iber shell cas­ing from the scene, but no hand­gun, and the cover to a dig­i­tal scale, which is com­monly used to weigh drugs.

Hicks, who was crit­i­cally in­jured from the gun­shot wound to the head, died in the hos­pi­tal that night.

Pub­lic de­fender Matthew Con­nell pointed out in cross-ex­am­i­na­tion that Hicks’ two friends, who stayed on scene and talked to po­lice, were not com­pletely forth­com­ing ini­tially, leav­ing out crit­i­cal de­tails about the ar­ranged mar­i­juana trans­ac­tion and in­stead act­ing as if it was a ran­dom act of vi­o­lence car­ried out by a stranger who had been fol­low­ing them. One of Hicks’ friends even main­tained in his tes­ti­mony that “noth­ing il­le­gal was go­ing on” when Hicks was shot.

Con­nell asked one of Hicks’ friends a pointed ques­tion, if he knew what “ly­ing by omis­sion” meant. The young man, who be­came con­tentious, replied that he an­swered ques­tions as he was asked and did not have a chance to ex­plain the whole in­ci­dent un­til back at a po­lice fa­cil­ity. He de­nied try­ing to mis­lead of­fi­cers.

It was also re­vealed un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion by one of Hicks’ friends that he and Hicks had com­mit­ted mul­ti­ple rob­beries be­fore, but he tes­ti­fied that that was not the in­ten­tion on Oct. 26, 2016. Asked a fol­low-up ques­tion by as­sis­tant state’s at­tor­ney Jonathan Beat­tie, the friend said that it was Jef­fer­son who sug­gested go­ing to a se­cluded area to make the trans­ac­tion.

Con­nell’s line of ques­tion­ing, how­ever, in­di­cated that Hicks’ friend may have con­tra­dicted what he told Det. Jack Austin, the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor. Pros­e­cu­tors planned to call Austin to tes­tify Thurs­day.

The state also called a friend of Jef­fer­son to tes­tify, who said he had been at the mall with Jef­fer­son that day. He said he was out­side the mall with other friends when he heard a gun­shot, and then saw Jef­fer­son walk around the cor­ner. Jef­fer­son then told him and his friends to walk ahead of him, and they walked as a group for a dis­tance be­fore go­ing sep­a­rate ways.

An­other friend of Jef­fer­sons’ said he had left the mall, but was still close by, when he re­ceived a call via Face­book from Jef­fer­son at 7:55 p.m., pro­ceed­ings showed. Jef­fer­son, he said, sounded dis­traught, like “he was in trou­ble,” and that some­one had been “try­ing him.” The friend be­lieved Jef­fer­son was about to get into a fight. They be­gan text mes­sag­ing each other, and Jef­fer­son seemed to be wor­ried about po­lice of­fi­cers in the area, and asked his friend if he had spo­ken with any. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions stopped shortly af­ter. The next day, the friend dis­cov­ered Jef­fer­son had been ar­rested for the shoot­ing by watch­ing the news.

The trial is on­go­ing, ex­pected to con­clude Fri­day.

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