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Relatives and friends of the family of 7 year old Taylor Hayes, who was killed last summer, attend a Peace Walk in her honor in the Edmondson Village neighborhood. The trial for her accused killer is in the hands of the jurors.
Relatives and friends of the family of 7 year old Taylor Hayes, who was killed last summer, attend a Peace Walk in her honor in the Edmondson Village neighborhood. The trial for her accused killer is in the hands of the jurors. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

A trial that began with the painful story of a 7-year old’s death closed Monday with a judge telling jurors that the lead detective gave conflicting answers under oath, defense attorneys arguing the whole case is built on lies and the lead prosecutor telling jurors that no case is flawless.

Jurors must now decide whether the man charged with shooting little Taylor Hayes last summer is indeed the killer, or the victim of botched police work and attempts to cover up those mistakes. After nearly two dozen witnesses and more than a week of testimony, the case against Keon Gray has appeared close to crumbling.

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The trial was marked by delays as prosecutors, a defense attorney and the judge parsed and replayed the testimony of Baltimore Police Detective Kevin Brown away from the jury’s presence.

The group focused on two different statements Brown made under oath after the state’s key witness testified forcefully last week that the white Mercedes-Benz she saw at the murder scene is not the same one prosecutors have connected to Gray. The witness testified that she even sent text messages and photographs of the exact make and model of the car she saw to Brown.

But Brown took the witness stand Thursday and denied receiving any photos, texts or other communication from his own witness. That turned out not to be true. Brown went home, found the messages and sent them to the prosecutor Thursday evening, hours after his testimony. Prosecutor Charles Blomquist called the testimony a mistaken memory and nothing nefarious.

Brown also testified that several witnesses said they saw a white S Class Mercedes at the scene. That was crucial because Gray’s DNA was found in a white Mercedes that crashed near the murder scene.

But under cross-examination from defense attorney Ken Ravenell, Brown said no witnesses had ever told him any such thing. In fact, Brown testified that he did not recall even making that statement in court during his testimony a day earlier.

Faced with such a turnaround on crucial pieces of evidence, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Althea Handy took the unusual step of listening to audiotape of Brown’s statement. The judge confirmed that Brown had indeed said one thing under direct questioning and another under cross examination.

That finding and Brown’s testimony about the text messages led Handy to take another rare step.

Before lawyers gave their closing arguments, Handy read to the jurors two prepared stipulations — statements of facts agreed to by prosecution and defense attorneys.

The first said that a witness testified to sending the text messages and photos to detective Brown, that Brown said no photos or messages existed, and that Brown went home, found the texts and photos and forwarded them to prosecutors.

The second stipulation dealt directly with Brown’s conflicting statements about the white Mercedes. The judge told the jurors that she listened to the tape and Brown had indeed changed his answers when asked whether any witnesses had placed a white S Class Mercedes at the scene.

During closing arguments Ravenell pounced on the testimony.

“These are not mistakes,” Ravenell told jurors, calling the testimony deliberate.

Blomquist acknowledged some honest mistakes.

“Are there missteps? Of Course,” Blomquist told jurors. "Is that really what this case is about? A few forgotten messages?”

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The jury will start deliberations Tuesday morning.

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