Hortencie Carmichael ordered her foster son to be home by midnight one night last June because of a premonition that something bad was about to happen to a family member.
Yesterday, that hunch paid off.
It gave Charles David Hicks an alibi that helped convince an Anne Arundel Circuit jury he couldn't have murdered Carlos Omar Brown because the slaying occurred almost an hour after he arrived home on June 26.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated 15 minutes before setting Mr. Hicks free.
Mr. Hicks, 20, of the 1800 block of Eagle Court in Severn was
acquitted of first-degree murder in the death of Mr. Brown, who was shot in the back of the head at 12:44 a.m. as he stood near his home in the 1600 block of Meade Village Circle with $300 worth of cocaine in his pocket.
dTC The Meade High School graduate was charged after a witness told police he had seen Mr. Hicks shoot the 18-year-old victim.
Norman Johnson, a 20-year-old Meade Village resident, told jurors during the two-day trial that he knew Mr. Hicks from his two years as a student at Meade High and that he saw him don a dark mask, run up to the victim and fire three shots at his back.
Mr. Hicks and five members of his family -- including a minister and a college student -- testified that he arrived home from the theaters at Marley Station Mall at midnight that night and remained home the rest of the night.
After the verdict, Assistant State's Attorney Frank Ragione acknowledged that he had no solid motive, no weapon and only Mr. Johnson to link the defendant to the crime scene. But he said the state was obligated to try the matter because of the seriousness of the offense.
"With an eyewitness, under these circumstances, it had to be tried. You have to let the jury decide; the victim's entitled to that much," he said.
Mr. Hicks' lawyer, H. Richard Duden III, said he felt intense pressure because he was convinced of his client's innocence from the time he reviewed the evidence.
"There's no doubt in my mind that that man had been wrongly charged," said Mr. Duden, a former prosecutor.
He credited the mother's premonition with saving her son.
"Fortuitously, that instinct she had of something being wrong provided the alibi that he needed to prove that he wasn't guilty," Mr. Duden said.
Members of Mr. Hicks' family said they were advised by lawyers they consulted before Mr. Duden not to divulge Mr. Hicks' alibi to the police after he had been charged.
"We were told it wouldn't do anything but hurt his case," said Veronica Shields, Mr. Hicks' foster-aunt. "We never thought he'd be in jail this long."
Mr. Hicks, who spent 347 days in jail, was too happy with his freedom to be angry about his captivity yesterday. He said shortly after his release that he felt no animosity toward Mr. Johnson, the police or the state's attorney's office. It was just a case of mistaken identity, he said.
"I don't bear any grudges against anyone. I know it was an honest mistake because there was no reason for him to intentionally lie. He has no reason to have anything against me," Mr. Hicks said as he left the courthouse.
Mr. Hicks said his long-term plans are to enlist in the Army, attend college after his discharge and possibly re-enlist as an officer once he earns a college diploma.
He also said that he had only one short-term plan.
@4 "I'm going to go for a real long walk," he said.