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Jury fails to reach verdict in trial of two men accused in Towson murder

Justice SystemHomicideLabor Day

The jury failed to reach a verdict Friday in the first-degree murder case against two of the four men charged in the December 2011 fatal shooting of 19-year-old Rodney Pridget outside Towson Town Center mall, and will reconvene on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Members of the jury deliberated for about three hours and 45 minutes after closing arguments concluded the Baltimore County Circuit Court case late Friday afternoon, but word came at about 8 p.m. that no verdict would be forthcoming.

On Friday, the fourth day of the trial, the prosecution rested its case against defendants Frank Williams, 32, of Lansdowne, and William Ward III, 45, of Baltimore, accused of being part of group of four men who tracked Pridget through the mall and orchestrated his shooting death near the mall parking lot.

Police have showed surveillance video that they say indicates Ward arriving at Towson Town Center with Williams, and with alleged gunman Tyrone Brown, 20, of Baltimore. Brown has also been charged with first-degree murder, but is not on trial this week.

Det. Jim Lambert of the Baltimore County Police homicide division said that during interviews with the suspects, Ward was shown photographs of himself and Williams walking into the mall, and himself pointing out Pridget to Brown as he exited the mall. In the interview, however, Ward denied knowing Brown, and would not identify him to Lambert.

Lambert also spoke of a session with Jermell Brandon, 35 of Baltimore — the fourth man charged with first-degree murder. On Thursday, Brandon had testified as a state's witness in the case as part of a plea deal, and claimed that Williams had "ordered a hit" on Pridget.

Brandon said that when he saw Pridget in the mall on Dec. 19, he called Williams, setting in motion the chain of events that resulted in Pridget being shot as he left the mall.

On Friday in court, Lambert showed a clip of a lengthy surveillance video compilation that the jury saw earlier in the trial — this version connected to men's use of cell phones.

He said calls — which begin with Brandon calling Williams' phone at 5:19 p.m. to report that he had seen Pridget— continued through the evening, including frequent calls to Williams' phone after police took him into custody. Many of the calls, Lambert said, are corroborated on surveillance video.

During cross examination, Williams' attorney Josh Insley attempted to paint his client as cooperative with investigators — and ignorant of the plan that Brandon detailed for jurors yesterday.

Lambert, however, said he had no doubts of Williams' guilt.

In closing arguments before the jury was sent out, State's Attorney Robin Coffin again laid out the state's belief of Ward's and Williams' key roles in the conspiracy.

The defense attorneys for Ward and Williams called no witnesses, but used the closing arguments to poke holes in the state's case.

Hoss Parvizian, a public defender representing Williams, said his client was the taken advantage of by the men behind the killing, and is not the criminal mastermind Coffin made him out to be.

"Frank Williams is clearly the patsy here," Parivizian told the jury.

Both Parvizian and Michelle Moodispaw, the attorney for Ward, questioned the credibility of Brandon, focusing on a portion of his testimony earlier this week in which he denied being a member of a gang, Black Guerilla Family, that had been connected to the other defendants. Det. Chris Hodnicki, a county criminal gang investigator, later testified that Brandon was indeed a member of that gang as well.

The Labor Day weekend will push the jury deliberations to Sept. 4. The jurors will convene at about 1:30 p.m.

This story has been updated.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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