A Prince George's County jury heard the slaying of D.C. cabdriver Robert Andrew McNeil described yesterday as either a deliberate act of murder or an accident that resulted from a panic reaction.
The jury's deliberations, which start this morning, will determine whether the defendant, Eugene J. Banks, 18, will receive the death penalty.
Banks is charged with kidnaping, robbing and murdering McNeil, 37, whom he and Raymond White allegedly abducted at Florida and Georia Avenues NW at 1 a.m. on Jan. 20. White 2k, is scheduled to be tried separately.
The shooting allegedly occurred after McNeil drove into Maryland on Rhode Island Avenue and Banks forced him to pull over to the side of the road. Defense attorney Fred Warren Bennett argued that Banks panicked and fired his gun when he saw a policeman coming.
Prosecutor Michael P. Whalen told the Circuit Court jury that after the shooting detectives found Banks to be matter-of-fact, clear, alert and unconcerned. He pointed to testimony that McNeil's wound was inflicted by a gun in contact with his clothing or body as an indication that the shooting wasn't accidental.
Whalen is seeking a first-degree murder conviction, which can carry the penalty of death in Maryland's gas chamber. There have been no executions in the state since 1961.
Bennett, arguing that the shooting was not premeditated, deliberate and willful," said his client was guilty of second-degree murder at most. Second-degree murder is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Banks also is charged in the slaying of Flora Wshington, 41, another cabdriver who allegedly picked up Banks and White at the same District of Columbia intersection earlier on the day of McNeil's death and was shot and left behind a warehouse in Landover.