The prosecution rested its case yesterday in the murder trial of Keith Allen Green, the St. Mary's County man accused of strangling 13-year-old Claudia Pickeral in 1997, without presenting any forensic evidence that linked him to the killing.
The primary evidence, presented in a day and a half of testimony, was from several people who said Green made suspicious comments to them in the aftermath of Claudia's death and two friends who contradicted his alibi for the afternoon of the slaying.
Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge G.R. Hovey Johnson denied a defense motion for a judgment of acquittal, ruling that the state had presented enough evidence against Green for the trial to proceed.
Attorney Julian Izydore began the defense case by focusing on a possible suspect that he says authorities failed to investigate completely.
The trial of Green, 35, was moved to Prince George's County because details of the girl's death and missteps in the investigation were too well known in St. Mary's County. Claudia, a Leonardtown Middle School student, was strangled on her way from the school bus stop.
Green a next-door neighbor of the girl's, was indicted in her death last September, after a flawed and protracted criminal investigation.
St. Mary's County State's Attorney Richard Fritz's case has relied entirely on circumstantial evidence, mostly statements that Green allegedly made.
Yesterday, Ernest Carter, a retired St. Mary's County sheriff's sergeant, told jurors that Green, appearing nervous, approached him a week after the girl's death as sheriff's detectives were searching Green's home. Green asked Carter whether he was a suspect in the crime, the detective testified.
"He asked then, that if he was involved--not saying he was involved--how much [prison] time would he get?" Carter told the jury. Carter testified that Green later told him that he had nothing to do with the girl's death.
Green has told police that he was out socializing with two friends the afternoon of Claudia's death, but they did not support that alibi in testimony yesterday. Joseph Carter, a veterans' home worker from Bushwood, told jurors that he had little contact with Green that day, aside from a brief chat and a telephone call.
Green's best friend, Thomas Alonzo Young, 31, of Mechanicsville (who is known in St. Mary's County as "Bobo" Somerville), told jurors that a signed statement he gave authorities was "a lie." Sheriff's officers have said that Young told them that Green had confided that he had killed Claudia.
St. Mary's sheriff's Capt. Steven M. Doolan testified that during an interview he had with Young in November 1997, Young tore a small scrap of paper from a pad on the desk and wrote, "He told me he did it," referring to Green. According to authorities, Young later chewed up that piece of paper.
The only forensic evidence presented by the prosecution came from a forensic pathologist who said that the girl died of strangulation and that abrasions on her neck were consistent with a struggle.
Izydore has contended that his client is innocent and that sheriff's detectives failed to investigate a male friend of Claudia's who spent time at her house in the days before the attack. The friend, a Great Mills High School student, told police he was in school the day of the slaying but attendance records showed otherwise.
Sheriff's Lt. John Horne, the first of about a dozen defense witnesses, testified that he did not reinterview the student after police discovered the student had skipped school that day.
CAPTION: The judge rejected a motion for acquittal in the trial of Keith Allen Green, who is accused of slaying 13-year-old Claudia Pickeral in 1997.