A Severna Park man was convicted of manslaughter yesterday in the shooting death of Tiffany Smith, the 6-year-old bystander who became a symbol of the indiscriminate gunplay plaguing the city.
In refusing a prosecutor's plea to return a guilty verdict for first-degree murder, the Baltimore Circuit Court jury ruled Guy Bernard Wilson, 21, was provoked into the July 9, 1991, shootout on a West Baltimore street.
Tiffany's mother, Charlene Miller, was not happy with the verdict. "I don't think justice was done," she said. "He took an innocent life."
Wilson, who was also convicted of reckless endangerment and two handgun charges, faces a maximum of 45 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 1, said Denise M. Fili, an assistant city state's attorney.
During a five-day trial, defense attorney William M. Monfried was able to convince the jury that New Yorker Arthur Felton instigated the shootout in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. Felton, 20, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree murder and a handgun charge. The plea agreement called for him to be sentenced to 30 years in prison with all but 18 years suspended after testifying in Wilson's trial.
During closing arguments yesterday, Mr. Monfried suggested Felton fired the shot that killed Tiffany -- and then tried to blame Wilson.
"Arthur Felton is a con man," he said. "He may have just conned the state out of a lot of years in jail."
Who fired the fatal shot was beside the point anyway, Ms. Fili told the jury. She argued that because Wilson was a willing participant in the gunbattle, the legal principle of "mutual combat" left both men responsible for the girl's killing.
"Because Guy Wilson and Arthur Felton felt compelled to have a gunbattle . . . Tiffany Smith is not alive today," she told the jury. "Hold Guy Wilson responsible." But the jury of seven women and five men, which deliberated about 3 1/2 hours before reaching its verdict, concluded Wilson was defending himself.
"Neither one of them should have been there shooting, but it was felt that one was more of an aggressor," said a juror who would not give his name.
"It was agreed that there was some justified, limited self-defense," the juror said.