Baltimore County

Jury to begin deliberations Tuesday in trial of teen charged with killing Baltimore County Police officer Amy Caprio

A Baltimore County jury will begin deliberations after closing arguments Tuesday in the felony murder trial of the teenager accused of killing police officer Amy Caprio last year.

Dawnta Harris, now 17, is charged with murder in commission of the theft of the black Jeep Wrangler he was driving and a string of home burglaries in Perry Hall for which police and prosecutors allege he had been serving as the getaway driver for three other teenagers.


Baltimore County Circuit Judge Jan M. Alexander’s courtroom remained packed with Caprio’s and Harris’ friends and family as the trial, which spilled into its second week Monday, neared an end.

Prosecutors dropped a handful of other misdemeanor charges and rested their case after calling the lead detective in the case, Alvin Barton, as their final witness.


In his second day on the stand, Barton said Harris identified which house the teens had been burglarizing on Linwen Way that day.

He characterized 17 instant messages Harris received that afternoon, asking variations of “where are you,” as “a natural conversation between a lookout and a burglar.”

During cross examination, defense attorney Warren Brown asked whether anyone had told police the boy had entered any of the houses the other teens are accused of burglarizing that day.

“Not inside,” the detective answered. “No.”

Knowledge of the break-ins alone does not constitute proof Harris was involved in them, Brown told reporters outside the Towson courthouse.

“Knowledge is not enough; mere presence is not enough,” Brown said. “You’ve got to do something before you are now a part of this conspiracy. There’s just nothing there to carry that ball across the goal line.”

Defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon called the homicide detective back to the stand Monday afternoon as the defense’s sole witness.

Objections from Assistant State’s Attorney Robin Coffin and more than half a dozen bench conferences peppered the contentious exchange between Gordon and Barton.


The detective acknowledged that he did not know who had stolen the Jeep that Harris was driving.

Given that the group drove to Perry Hall together from Baltimore, the teenager’s lawyer asked the detective how else Harris would have gotten home, but for riding back in the vehicle with the other teens.

“He could’ve walked away from them at any time,” Barton replied.

Gordon pressed the detective while playing parts of Barton’s recorded interview of Harris and Caprio’s body-camera footage, both of which the jury had seen previously.

He asked about the temperature in the interview room, noting a blanket draped around Harris in the video. The detective said he didn’t touch the thermostat.

Gordon asked whether Barton had treated Harris, age 16 at the time, the same way he would an adult during the 14-hour interrogation.


“I’m fair with everyone,” Barton said. “I’m patient with everyone I deal with.”

Had he advised him he could call his parents? The county does not have a separate advice-of-rights form for minors, the detective said.

Gordon asked Barton if he could see Harris behind the wheel in the body camera footage. He asked Barton to demonstrate Caprio’s stance and position in relation to the Jeep and her patrol car before she was run over.

“We are not taught how to take shooting positions with cars trying to run us over,” Barton said.

As they went back and forth about their conclusions from the body-camera footage, both became visibly frustrated.

“Is there any reason you don’t want to answer my question?” Gordon said at one point.

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Alexander sustained the objection almost before Coffin said the word.

“Stop. Come up,” the judge said, beckoning the attorneys to yet another bench conference.

The prosecutor had just one question for Barton on cross-examination: “When Officer Caprio gets out of that car and that Jeep comes toward her, what, if any, crime did you observe?”

“An assault,” the detective replied.

Harris did not testify. Dressed in a black shirt and gray slacks, the teenager took notes on a legal pad and occasionally conferred with his attorneys.

Regardless of whether he is guilty of a crime, the ninth grader is remorseful for Caprio’s death, Brown said.


“It still weighs on you that someone’s life is lost,” Brown said, “and certainly he’s bearing that weight.”