Man guilty in shoot­ing mur­der

Killed West­lake HS se­nior in Oc­to­ber

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

The man charged with mur­der for the fa­tal shoot­ing of a West­lake High School stu­dent in Oc­to­ber was found guilty of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der on Fri­day in Charles County Cir­cuit Court.

Dea­van Quin­del Jef­fer­son, 20, of Bal­ti­more was found guilty of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der for the death of Reuel Hicks,

18, a se­nior at West­lake High School, who he shot in the head af­ter a drug deal — in­volv­ing a small amount of mar­i­juana — went awry out­side the AMC movie theatre near the St. Charles Towne Cen­ter mall, court pro­ceed­ings showed.

Prose­cu­tors be­lieve Jef­fer­son had in­tended to rob Hicks of the mar­i­juana, while the de­fense ar­gued that Jef­fer­son had acted in im­per­fect self-de­fense; they ar­gued it was Hicks and two of his friends who had in­tended to rob Jef­fer­son be­hind movie theater.

Jef­fer­son had been charged with first-de­gree mur­der. As­sis­tant state’s at­tor­neys Jonathan Beattie and Con­stance Kopel­man told the jury that it was not self-de­fense; the shoot­ing was pre­med­i­tated. Premed­i­ta­tion, they said, doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be an elab­o­rate plan, rather just enough time to con­sider the act be­fore com­mit­ting it.

“You know what you’re go­ing to do, you have time to think about the op­tions, and you make a choice,” said Beattie dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments. “He thought about it, he did it, and he’s guilty.”

Public de­fender Matthew Con­nell told the jury that the act took place in a mat­ter of sec­onds, and pointed to tes­ti­mony dur­ing the four day trial that showed that Jef­fer­son had been gath­er­ing money from friends at the mall to col­lec­tively pur­chase mar­i­juana. Con­nell also pointed out that one of Hicks’ friends told po­lice that, from a mere look ex­changed in­side the mall, the un­spo­ken plan was to rob Jef­fer­son, and that the trio had two knives in­side a back­pack re­cov­ered by po­lice. The state re­but­ted, say­ing there was no ver­bal or writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion of a planned rob­bery; that even if that was the case, they had no chance to carry it out as Jef­fer­son shot Hicks in the head with­out hes­i­ta­tion af­ter lur­ing him to a dark, se­cluded area.

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 theater 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.

“If you’re go­ing to shoot me, then shoot me,” the eye­wit­ness tes­ti­fied. And Jef­fer­son 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.

Dur­ing the trial, jurors heard Jef­fer­son’s in­ter­view with a Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice de­tec­tive, in which he ini­tially tried to pin the mur­der on one of Hicks’ friends, who he did not rec­og­nize. When he learned that he was go­ing to be charged with mur­der, he claimed self-de­fense, telling Det. Long that, “I shot him in his [ex­plicit] head,” and went on to brag that he was a “pis­tol ex­pert,” that his aim was “vi­cious.”

The .380 cal­iber hand­gun was never re­cov­ered.

“He was a son, a brother, a high school stu­dent,” said as­sis­tant state’s at­tor­ney Con­stance Kopel­man dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments. “… Most im­por­tantly, he was a hu­man be­ing, and he didn’t de­serve to die.”

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