Jury finds Brown guilty of murder
Jurors opt for second-degree conviction; sentencing today
FAYETTEVILLE — A Washington County jury found Rashad Santon Brown guilty of second-degree murder, which is a lesser offense than he was charged with for killing Cedric Oliver.
Brown, 19, killed Cedric Oliver, 19, of Springdale at a party Dec. 12, 2015, at 811 W. Peachtree Drive. He was 17 when the stabbing occurred and he was originally charged with first-degree murder.
A sentencing hearing and formal sentencing is set for today. Brown faces six to 30 years in prison, fines of up to $15,000 or both.
The jury went out just after 3 p.m. and returned about 5:30 p.m. with a verdict. In addition to first- degree murder, jurors were able to consider the lesser included offenses of second-degree murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide.
The two had an argument at the party that escalated into a fight. Brown stabbed Oliver in the heart, according to a medical examiner who testified Tuesday.
Police found Oliver collapsed in the front yard and he was pronounced dead at Washington Regional Medical Center a short time later. Brown ran from the stabbing scene but turned himself into police later that day.
Brown said the two were friends and the stabbing was accidental. Brown told jurors he thought some of Oliver’s friends were going to jump into the fight and attack him and he panicked. Brown said someone hit him in the back of the head. He pulled out a knife and opened it to scare the crowd back and Oliver ran into the blade.
“I didn’t try to stab him. I was panicked, I was dazed, I thought I was going to get jumped,” Brown said. “I popped it open and he was right there. He just started spinning.”
Brown broke down sobbing and laid his head on the witness stand as he told the jury his version of events.
“I didn’t have any intentions of hurting him, I just wanted to get away,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to fight. I knew he wasn’t a fighter, I’m not a fighter and I just wanted to squash the situation.”
That story didn’t square with other witnesses, who said Brown ran some 10 feet toward Oliver and plunged the knife into his chest with both hands.
One of the biggest questions during the trial was what started the fight. Brown said some of his friends told him Oliver and one of Oliver’s friends were upset with over an argument Brown had with Oliver’s friend while playing basketball. Brown said he was trying to talk to Oliver to find out why he was upset.
“It was really a he-said-she-said that started it,” Brown said. “I really didn’t want to fight. I didn’t know what the issue was.”
Brown said Oliver stepped on his shoes at the party and punched him first while they were inside. Brown said he didn’t try to punch Oliver during the multiple scuffles.
“I didn’t throw no punches,” Brown said. “I just grabbed him.”
Brian Lamb, deputy prosecutor, told jurors the case hinged on Brown’s intent.
“What did he do? He pulled a knife from his pocket. He charged across a distance between himself and Cedric after they had been separated and he pushed a knife into his heart. Those were his actions,” Lamb said. “Are those actions enough to determine what was in his mind? You bet they are, that’s purpose. That is acting with purpose.”
Lamb asked jurors to look at how Brown acted.
“When you conceal the knife and you push it into his chest and you bang him into the back of the car, that is acting with purpose,” Lamb said. “That is murder in the first degree.”
Lamb said no one else had a weapon and nobody threatened to kill Brown. Brown fled, threw the knife away, stashed his car and avoided police.
Paul Younger, Brown’s attorney, said Oliver’s friends or someone intervened in the fight causing Brown to fear for his life. Younger said the state failed to show requisite intent to kill.
“In this case the fatal wound was inflicted during a fight and it’s disputed whether or not the wound was inflicted intentionally,” Younger said. “It’s just unlikely that a single stab wound located in the perfect spot in the chest where there was no bone or anything to get in the way and go straight to the heart, that that was an intentional act. It’s unfortunate that in this case the pocket knife went in that one spot and went directly into Cedric’s heart.”