A Harford County man let out a sigh of relief in the circuit courthouse Thursday afternoon after being cleared of all charges in a 2013 Edgewood murder.
Garfield Smith III, 22, faced charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, attempted first-degree assault, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, use of a handgun to commit a violent crime and wear, carry or transport of a handgun with the intent to injure in connection with a shooting that killed Michael Kearins, 17, and injured Christopher Cousins, 19.
Three of the charges, including second-degree assault and firearm related charges, were dropped by prosecutors during the trial.
As the jury forewoman read the verdict to the packed courtroom, one woman, an associate of the victims of the murder-shooting, yelled and stormed out of the courtroom.
"Thank you, Jesus," Smith said after hearing the verdict.
Following the verdict, Smith, who was defended by public defenders Howard Greenberg and Michael Ambridge during the intense, two-week trial, stood up and hugged one of the lawyers.
"That's why you're a good lawyer," Smith said to Greenberg.
Smith was on trial for Jan. 31, 2013 murder and shooting in Edgewood's Cunion Park following a marijuana deal.
Kearins and Cousins allegedly went to Cunion Park to buy marijuana; there was some sort of confrontation and the two men were shot around 10:30 p.m.
Kearins was taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, where he was pronounced dead, and Cousins was taken by medevac to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
Smith was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs with a huge smile plastered across his face.
He will not freed immediately. Greenberg said he violated probation in Pennsylvania when he was arrested for the Jan. 31, 2013 murder- shooting in Edgewood.
Assistant State's Attorney Trenna Manners, who prosecuted the case with Assistant State's Attorney David Ryden, declined to comment following the not guilty verdict.
Ambridge said he believes the jury reached the proper verdict following the evidence presented by the state and the defense. While he said the outcome of a jury trial can never be predicted, the defense remained optimistic throughout the trial.
According to Ambridge, the objective evidence, lack of DNA, strong defense and weak motive presented by the Harford State's Attorney's Office helped to clear Smith of the charges.
Greenberg, Smith's other public defender, said every witness the state called in the case, essentially became a witness for the defense.
Greenberg also said the state's motive was weak. According to the state prosecutors, Smith's motive was revenge after his brother's residence in the 1600 block of Candlewood Court was shot up on Jan. 21, 2013 while Smith and a female friend were inside.
"The state's motive was proven to be defective," Greenberg said. "They tried to say it was retaliatory, but none of the victims in this case were involved in the previous shooting."
Smith, who is black, was tried by 12 jurors, seven men and five women. One juror, a man, was black.
"I'm glad there was some representation," Ambridge said of the jury selection.