After three hours of deliberation, a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury convicted Donovan George Brown of second-degree murder last night in the 1984 drug-related shooting death of a District man.
Brown, 21, who faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years in prison on two counts, will be sentenced Feb. 7 for the murder of George Fratta Lewis, 30, on Dec. 3, 1984, in a Silver Spring apartment.
Second-degree murder, defined as expressing malice but without premeditation, carries a maximum 30-year penalty. Brown also was convicted of a related charge of using a handgun in the commission of a crime that carried a maximum 15-year penalty.
During his final argument, deputy state's attorney I. Matthew Campbell emphasized the definition of second-degree murder, which is described as involving "an element of viciousness" and "a contemptuous disregard for human life." Campbell argued that Brown had pistol-whipped Lewis with a loaded gun and that that "certainly" displayed both viciousness and contempt.
Brown, an alleged marijuana smuggler from Jamaica, was convicted after the key defense witness contradicted his own testimony in an appearance that even defense lawyers called a fiasco.Rudolph Armstrong's testimony was "thoroughly impeached," admitted public defender Paul DeWolfe in his comments to the jury.
Armstrong, who is serving an 18-month sentence on drug charges had been expected to cast doubt on testimony by Earl (Jackie) Wallace. Wallace, an admitted drug courier who lived in the Silver Spring apartment where the shooting took place, was the state's main witness.
Based on Wallace's story, prosecutors argued that Brown shot Lewis in revenge after Lewis stole a cache of marijuana belonging to Brown.
Wallace testified Tuesday that he was present during the shooting and fled in panic, but returned that night with two Baltimore "hustlers" who helped him dump Lewis's body on a "lonely" Burtonsville road in return for 10 pounds of marijuana.
Armstrong testified under questioning from DeWolfe yesterday that although Wallace had lived with him in Baltimore in 1983, he had not seen Wallace at any time in 1984.
But under cross-examination by Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Campbell, Armstrong admitted that he had told police earlier that he had seen Wallace in 1984, that he and Wallace were arrested at Armstrong's apartment on Jan. 23, 1985.
"I regret calling Armstrong as a witness," DeWolfe told the jury. "I ask you not to hold it against my client . . . . Hold it against me."
DeWolfe told the jury that there was no proof of Brown's guilt -- no fingerprints in the apartment, no papers or possessions.
Wallace, who was originally charged with the murder, will receive five years' probation on drug charges in return for testifying.