The jurors hearing the case of Terrence G. Johnson, accused of slaying two Prince George's County policemen, deliberated for six hours and five minutes last night before sending the judge a note saying they would "be in a better frame of mind after a good night's sleep."
The jury was sent to a hotel shortly after 10:30 p.m. and will sequestered there until the trial resumes at 9:30 this morning.
The jurors began their deliberations late yesterday afternoon after listening to lengthy closing arguments that climaxed nine days of testimony in the trial of the 16-year-old youth. During the arguments, lawyers for each side presented vastly differing versions of what happened last June in the basement of the Hyattsville police station.
State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. spoke first recounting the testimony of every witness who testified during the trial, noting at one point that "the state's best witness in this trial was the defendant's mother who never even testified about her son's behavior when she took the stand."
Marshall asserted that the state had proved through police and psychiatric testimony that Johnson did not have to kill officer Albert M. Claggett IV in self-defense and was not insane seconds later when he shot officer James Brian Swart, as the defense contended.
"Tell me what Rusty Claggett did to the defendant in that room that justifies his being dead today. "Tell me what justifies theat person over there (he pointed at Johnson) taking his life?"
Marshall said there was no question in his mind that Johnson had been treated roughly seconds before Claggett took him into the fingerprinting room where the first shooting occurred.
"I'm sure he (Johnson) was not taken down gently in that corner," Marshall said, "I'm sure none of the three officers appreciated his swinging a chair at a police officer."
Marshall criticized defense psychiatrist Dr. Frances Welsing, pointing out that she had diagnosed Johnson's temporary insanity after only two meetings with him. "That's a pretty good person who can say someone was insane for three seconds in his life after spending two hours with him," Marshall said. He added that he was "shocked" to hear Welsing describe hereself as "the psychiatrist for the defendant."
In his conclusion, Marshall said he thought the two police officers died "because Terrence Johnson wanted to prove to his brother how tough he was."
Defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy took 95 minutes to make his closing statement for the defense, almost as long as Marshall. Alternately shouting and whispering, Mundy said, "I have only one chansce to talk to you. Mr. Marshall has two. So please listen carefully because I will have no other chance to put before you the case of Terrence Johnson.
"Criminal cases are built on human tragedy. This is triply so in this case because three people and three families have been affected by it. . . . "
"I will show you where the government has selected the evidence it has presented to you to its best advantage. I will show you 20 reasons of doubt from the government's evidence.
"This trial is a search for the truth. And after we are finished here you will speak the final judgement."
Mundy criticized Marshall's final arguments and questioned the veracity of the police witnesses.
"Mr. Marshall failed to note that on the police report there was a notation that one person broke into the coin machine which the Johnson brothers were stopped for. Nor did he mention that despite this, Terry was handcuffed at the scene. This started the nightmare of this case."
Mundy asked why police officers outside the fingerprinting room would not react if they heard scuffling, "when he had already given them trouble"
"It almost seems there was a gross conspiracy by the police department to cover up what happened in the police station.
"Even the state's on psychiatrist Dr. Silver said the police were 'minimizing,' their actions before the shootings.
"Those officers in that processing room knew what was going on in there," Mundy continued, his voice rising. "They knew Terrence Johnson was being disciplined by Claggett because it was standard operating procedure in the Hyattsville police station.
"The standard operating procedure is to take someone who gives you any trouble into a room and bust him. And those officers got the worst shock of their lives when the door flew open and Terrence Johnson was standing there.
"Officer Roberts even testified that there were about three seconds between the first two shots. Why didn't he have his gun drawn by then? Because he was thinking, 'my God, Claggett's killed the kid."
Mundy also implied that the state had brought in an officer to testify that he had hit Johnson after the shootings to cover up the fact that cuts on his face were received before the shootings.
"From the very first night the conspiracy in this case started," Mundy said. "Terrence Johnson was taken into that room to be beaten. The evidence on that is clear. No one has come forward to contradict any of Terrence Johnson's testimony despite Mr. Marshall's efforts to upset him on cross-examination.
"And when officer Roberts testified that Terrence looked 'cool and calm' when he shot Swart, what was he trying to do? He was trying to put cold, calculated killing in the heart of that boy," Mundy said.
In rebuttal Marshall said, "We have an old saying. If you have nothing else to say, attack the lawyer."
After the two lawyers had finished, Johnson sat alone in the courthourse hallway quietly smoking a cigarette, and talked about his feelings for the first time since the trial began.
"I couldn't believe what (state's attorney Arthur A.) Marshall said about me," he said. "I couldn't believe what he tried to make me.
"I'm scared" he said. "I'm scared of going back to jail because I know if I go it's going to be for a long time. I don't know if I can take that. If they send me I'll just have to go and do the best I can."