Decuir is now serving 23 years in prison for the events that early morning after the jury in his first trial found him guilty of trying to hide evidence and to influence witnesses in the case, as well as possessing a handgun as a felon. At the time of Malek’s shooting, Decuir was on probation for a 2014 Maryland conviction for carrying a pistol without a license.
Decuir and his public defenders argued that he shot Malek in self-defense after the two strangers got off the bus about 12:30 a.m. As he did in the prior trials, Decuir told the jury that he saw Malek turn at him with a gun that he said the teen had removed from a duffle bag. Decuir said that, fearing for his life, he removed his gun from his shorts and fired. A bullet struck Malek once in the back of his neck.
Decuir told the jury that he often carried a gun “for protection.”
“I didn’t want to kill him. I just didn’t want him to shoot me,” Decuir testified. “I’m sorry there is nothing I can do to bring him back.”
Federal prosecutors repeatedly argued that Decuir did not act in self-defense. Police initially said Decuir targeted Malek for the teen’s designer Versace belt.
In the recent trial, prosecutors Jeffrey Nestler and Anwar Graves shifted their strategy based on further review of the evidence and witness testimony.
Prosecutors said Decuir targeted Malek because the teen had joined in the laughter when Decuir was teased by one of his friends at a bus stop.
According to witnesses’ testimony, Decuir told Malek that he liked his designer belt. One of Decuir’s friends who was with him loudly joked, “Why are you looking at that boy’s butt?” Everyone around them, including Malek, began to laugh, witnesses testified.
Decuir became enraged as the group rode on the bus and decided to seek revenge, prosecutors said.
“He preyed on Malek as a hunter would,” Graves told the jury. “He had Malek in his sight that entire bus ride.”
It remained unclear whether Malek carried a gun. No weapon was found near his body. The defense argued that his friends removed a weapon before calling 911, although no one testified to that.
The panel deliberated less than a day following the two-week trial. As the foreman stood to read the verdict, two jurors shifted their bodies to look to the back of the courtroom at Malek’s mother, Sharon Jones. As she did through the first two trials, Jones sat through the proceedings, sometimes wiping away tears as she listened to the eyewitness testimony, looked at the final moments of her son’s life on the Metrobus security footage and viewed autopsy photos.
Jones burst into tears at the verdict. In the hallway, she hugged the prosecutors and homicide detectives.
“This is amazing,” Jones said. “It won’t bring my son back. But I definitely got justice. It’s what I have been looking for all these years.”