Jury selection began yesterday in the attempted murder trial of a Shady Side man after a plea agreement fell through when the defendant told an Anne Arundel circuit judge his statement to police had been coerced.
Rico Carl Smith, 23, of the 5200 block of Nick Road, told Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. that a statement prosecutors may use against him at trial was given to investigators under false pretenses.
Mr. Smith is charged with attempted murder in the Oct. 29, 1993, shooting of David Green, 29, of Galesville.
Police said that the victim had driven with a friend, William Mitchell of Deale, to Mr. Smith's neighborhood to buy crack cocaine.
Police said Mr. Mitchell sped off in his truck when a co-defendant, Daniel R. Brown, approached the truck with a pillowcase over his head.
Police said Brown fired two shots at the truck and hit Mr. Green in the head with one shot, leaving the victim partially paralyzed, in a wheelchair and only able to speak a few words.
Police allege that Mr. Smith, who is Brown's brother, directed the pick-up truck to the wooded area where Brown was planning to rob the victims.
Brown, 18, also of Shady Side, entered an Alford plea of guilt to attempted murder and handgun charges and was sentenced by Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. Tuesday to 13 years in prison. The plea means that Brown did not admit guilt, but acknowledged that the state had enough evidence to convict him if the case were tried.
Yesterday, Mr. Smith agreed to enter a plea to conspiracy to commit armed robbery after hours of negotiations between defense and prosecuting attorneys.
But as he was entering the plea -- in what is usually a 15-minute proceeding where the judge makes sure the defendant understands his rights -- Mr. Smith told Judge Heller he was entering the plea in part because of an illegal confession.
He said that police told him while he was being interviewed after the shooting that Brown was in another room in a standoff with police and was holding a gun on the officers.
He said that he was anxious to talk his brother into putting down his gun, but that police wouldn't let him have access.
"They said that the only way I could get to talk to him was if I signed the statement," Mr. Smith said.
Based on that, Judge Heller said he could not accept Mr. Smith's guilty plea, which under Maryland law must be "freely and voluntarily" entered by a defendant.
Assistant public defender James McCarthy, who met with the judge in his chambers after his decision, would not comment on the case.
But he said that the case is expected to go to the jury Monday.