Vincent Jackson waited in line all day to see the closing arguments in the trial of Terrence Johnson. Jackson is 17, black and wants to be an accountant. He said he was arrested for grand larcency last year but was given probation. The police treated him decently, he said, and so did the judge.
"Anybody would have done what Terrence did," Jackson said. "You don't have to be a violent person. All my friends agree with me."
"I'd probably hav fought back but I wouldn't have killed like that kid," said a sheriff's deputy as he watched the line, his hands behind his back in military fashion. "Only one in a million would have killed."
The deputy had worked in the jail for three years. "I went in thinking I was going to save the world. I went out knowing there is no way you can do that."
Now he is one of the deputies responsible for security inside the courthouse during the trial. He explained that the sheriff's men "have always been extremely cautious handling juveniles. "The problem is that people don't take juveniles seriously enough. They do crazy things. One kid tried to jump out of a fourth floor window-not to kill himself-just to escape."
"We've had other trials that lasted as long, but not as unusual," said Capt. James Fitzpatrick of the special operations division of the Prince George's County police. Fitzpatrick said that from the security standpoint the trial was a success. "we met with the pro-johnson demonstrators, worked out arragements. It worked very well. We were very fortunate. The Ku Klux Khan didn't show up, for example. There was no trouble."
How dis the policemen react being assigned to trial of a person accused of killing two of their colleagues? "Are you saying they're happy doing what they're doing? No. But they're professional policeman. I have no problems with anybody doing their job."
"We just want to be left alone until after the verdict." Melvin Johnson speaks as he stands along the fence at the courthouse. His brother Terrence is looking away. "My brother speaks for me," Terrence says, "He protects me."
"I can understand why you want to talk with us," Melvin says. "This is history."