A Prince George's County Circuit Court jury acquitted a Suitland man of all charges yesterday in last summer's killing of a Capitol Heights woman who was hit by stray gunfire as she was hanging curtains in her living room.
After deliberating about four hours over two days, the jury of 11 women and one man found Keith Arnez Boone, 22, not guilty of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the June 16 slaying of Dona Elizabeth Ferguson, 40.
At the time of the shooting, Boone was serving a home detention sentence after being convicted of cocaine possession. Police said the bullet that struck Ferguson was aimed at a man whom Boone and two other men were attacking. Those men, Ronald Degaulle Rice Jr., 33, and his father, Ronald Degaulle Rice Sr., 60, also are charged in Ferguson's slaying and are scheduled to stand trial separately.
The jury also acquitted Boone of attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault charges in the attack on Norman Bonds, 20, which prosecutors alleged resulted in Ferguson's death.
About a dozen of Ferguson's relatives, including her sister, Caron Tolton, attended every day of the three-day trial.
"It's saddening that someone shot her, and now it looks like no one will have to pay for it," Tolton said. "But I think the jury did the best it could with the evidence it was given."
Boone's mother, grandmother and aunt, sitting a few feet behind the defendant, wept softly as the verdict was read. "I am so glad that they found him not guilty. He didn't do it," said Cynthia Boone, his aunt.
Jurors left quickly after delivering their verdict. One juror who declined to give her name said they had "a lot of questions" about the state's case, but she would not detail them.
During the trial, Assistant State's Attorney Robert L. Dean said Boone had joined Rice Jr. and Rice Sr. to retaliate against Bonds for beating Rice Jr. a day earlier. Dean said Boone chased Bonds through a Capitol Heights apartment complex and fired a shot at him, missing him and hitting Ferguson, a mother of four.
Douglas J. Wood, Boone's attorney, hammered at weaknesses in the state's case during his closing argument.
The only witness who identified Boone as the shooter was Bonds, an admitted former crack dealer. Bonds testified that he saw Boone get out of a car with Rice Jr., who had a baseball bat. As he ran away, Bonds said, he saw Boone take a handgun out of his waistband and fire.
Rice Sr. testified that Boone rode with him and his son to confront Bonds but that he never saw a gun. Police recovered the weapon allegedly used in the shooting, a 9mm handgun, at the home of Rice Sr., who testified that he knew nothing about the gun or how it got into his house. In his closing argument, Wood said the state's case boiled down to the credibility of Bonds and Rice Sr.
"Is Norman Bonds someone you could trust enough to convict Keith Boone?" Wood asked. The older Rice, Wood said, had lied to protect his son.
Wood also pointed out that Prince George's County homicide detectives initially obtained an arrest warrant for a brother of Rice Jr. who they believed was the shooter, but backtracked when they learned that man was in jail when the slaying occurred. In addition, Wood pointed out, detectives showed a photo array to Bonds that included a picture of Boone, but did not show a photo spread to three young women who witnessed the shooting.
Rice Sr. and Rice Jr. face charges of first-degree murder. Dean said prosecutors will probably drop the murder charge against Rice Sr. and try him on a charge of being an accessory to murder.
Boone remained in jail yesterday pending a court hearing on the probation violation charge he faces.
Wood said he would seek a hearing within a few days if the state did not dismiss the charge, which was based on Boone's arrest in Ferguson's slaying and the attack on Bonds. Boone's one-year home detention sentence ended Jan. 11, according to court records.
CAPTION: Keith Arnez Boone was acquitted in a Capitol Heights woman's killing.
CAPTION: Dona Elizabeth Ferguson, right, was killed by a stray bullet in June. Two men have yet to stand trial in her death. Also shown are her husband, Herbert Ferguson, and their children, Joshua, left, Mckynze, Marcus and Kiah, bottom center.