Attorneys for Urbanski have asked a judge to ban “particularly offensive” evidence linked to their client, arguing that the material is not relevant or connected to the killing of Richard W. Collins III, 23. Urbanski’s lawyers have asked to exclude content from a now-deleted Facebook page called “Alt-Reich: Nation,” along with cartoon images and group messages found on his devices, according to court filings.
The evidence could play a key role in whether prosecutors can prove to a jury that the killing of Collins, who was black, was racially motivated. Prosecutors announcing the hate crime charge in October 2017 against Urbanski, who is white, said a review of his phone and social media activity pointed to a race-related attack.
Urbanski’s lawyers have also asked that if prosecutors are allowed to use the evidence, that the murder and hate crime charges would be prosecuted in two separate trials.
Collins, 23, was killed May 20, 2017, when he was visiting the university in College Park. He was with two friends waiting for a ride when Urbanski approached and stabbed him, police said.
“Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” Urbanski told Collins before stabbing him with a folding knife, according to police charging papers.
University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said at the time that Collins’s killing was “totally unprovoked.”
Collins was days away from graduating from Bowie State University and had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army when he was killed. His death came at a time of heightened racial tensions at colleges nationwide and prompted U-Md. to create a task force to review how it handles hate-bias incidents.
One of the major arguments at Thursday’s hearing was expected to center on how long Urbanski allegedly interacted with the offensive content on his social accounts.
Urbanski’s attorneys argued that there is no time connection that would link content on his devices and Collins’s killing.
The “images, survey and Facebook page are particularly offensive, extremely prejudicial, highly inflammatory, irrelevant and not otherwise admissible,” William C. Brennan Jr. and John M. McKenna, Urbanski’s attorneys, wrote in previous court filings.
They have said at previous hearings that drugs and alcohol may have played a role in Urbanski’s alleged actions.
Prosecutors said the evidence that Urbanski’s attorneys seek to bar from the trial speaks to motive, an essential element in elevating a possible conviction from second-degree murder to first-degree murder. The materials on Urbanski’s social media and phone were found after Collins was killed and a search warrant was executed.
“The recovered data” proves that “the Defendant purposefully chose to stab Mr. Collins, over anyone else at the bus stop that night, because Mr. Collins is an African American,” prosecutors wrote in court filings.