Defendant portrayed in a rage


Daniel Justin Leonard couldn't say no to anyone on the night Gregory Lamont Howard was killed by a single gunshot wound in the heart.

He couldn't say no to his buddy, Samuel Allen Miller, who insisted the two go to an "all-you-can-drink" night at Champ's Restaurant on Main Street. He couldn't say no to Miller's friend, Timothy Cumberland, who wanted Leonard to take him and his girlfriend to buy some crack. And he couldn't say no when an enraged Mr. Cumberland told him to stop his Ford Escort on South Center Street minutes before Mr. Howard was hit by a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun.

In testimony in Mr. Cumberland's first-degree murder trial, Leonard told a Carroll Circuit Court jury yesterday that he drove to South Center Street on the night of Jan. 28, 1993, because he "wanted to do a favor for a friend."

"It was Sam's friend, and I wanted to do him a favor," Leonard testified.

That favor has bought Leonard up to 10 years in state prison, the maximum sentence he can receive after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for his testimony against Mr. Cumberland.

Miller, who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Mr. Howard, 22, also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors rested their case yesterday after Leonard's two hours on the witness stand.

Mr. Cumberland, 24, of Reisterstown is the only one of the three men charged in Mr. Howard's death who turned down a plea deal. His defense attorney, Michael D. Montemarano, is expected to present witnesses today who will testify that Mr. Cumberland bought the crack that evening, got burned and brandished a shotgun while he taunted everyone in the 100 block of S. Center St., but that he did not kill -- or plan to kill -- Mr. Howard.

The state aims to portray Mr. Cumberland as the driving force behind the outing to South Center Street. Leonard told the jury that it was Miller who wanted to go to Champ's that night but that it was Mr. Cumberland's idea to go buy crack.

"I don't like bars. I would have been happy to leave as soon as I got there," Leonard said under cross-examination by Mr. Montemarano.

"You would have been happy to leave as soon as you got there?" the attorney asked.

L "I didn't leave because I didn't want Sam to get mad at me."

He said that Mr. Cumberland, who knew Miller, was interested in getting high, and wanted to know if Leonard and Miller could take him anywhere to get some crack.

The three men and Robin Cherry, Mr. Cumberland's girlfriend, got into Leonard's car and headed for South Center Street, Leonard said. Mr. Cumberland bought a $40 bag of crack, and, deciding that he needed another bag, had Leonard drive around the corner to another dealer.

Instead of delivering drugs, the second drug dealer handed Mr. Cumberland a bag full of soap shavings.

"Tim said, 'This is not real,' " Leonard recalled. "He was very angry."

Mr. Cumberland told Leonard to drive around the block and, as Miller was assembling the 12-gauge shotgun that Leonard said he kept in his car for squirrel hunting, Mr. Cumberland told Leonard to stop the car.

"Tim went into the glove box and passed a shell to Sam. He was mad; he was yelling at people," Leonard said. "He told me to stop my car."

When the car stopped, Mr. Cumberland got out with the gun, sometimes holding it as a club, sometimes holding it by his hip, Leonard testified.

Mr. Cumberland was yelling obscenities and insisted on "getting the person who sold me the bad crack," Leonard said.

"We were all yelling to get back into the car, to get back into the car," Leonard said. "He proceeded around the car, and the back passenger door had opened. Sam Miller had opened the door. Tim handed the gun to Sam. He was in the car, the gun was in the car.

"I went to put my car in first gear -- it was a clutch -- and I heard a boom."

Mr. Howard, who had approached Mr. Cumberland and the car, was 2 inches from the barrel of the shotgun when it fired. He lay dying as Leonard and the others sped away in the Escort and went back to Champ's.

Throughout his testimony, Leonard portrayed himself as the unwilling participant in the night of booze, drugs and death.

He insisted that his only contributions that night were his car, his gun and his ammunition.

The trial was to continue today.

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