How well a police officer can identify a driver who he says nearly collided with him on a misty November night is what jurors have to decide in a possession of marijuana case against a 25-year-old Baltimore County man, attorneys said yesterday.
During opening statements yesterday, Carroll County public defender Daniel Shemer maintained that police misidentified his client, Brian Lamont Magruder, as the man whose car nearly collided with Westminster Pfc. Mark A. Shobert's vehicle at a 7-11 store about 11:30 p.m. Nov. 15.
Police have said the man drove east on Route 140 from the convenience store parking lot and turned into Koons Toyota, about one-tenth of a mile away.
The man parked the car and fled, running down an embankment behind the dealership and disappearing into the woods, according to police.
When police searched the 1989 Honda, they said they found four sandwich bags containing about 23 ounces of marijuana and a package of rolling papers.
Mr. Magruder, of Phlox Circle in Owings Mills, is charged with possession of marijuana, driving while his license was revoked and fleeing and eluding police.
"You can't describe what you didn't see," said Mr. Shemer, who is representing Mr. Magruder, as he addressed a jury of six men and six women yesterday.
"You can't identify what you can't see.
"Brian Magruder was not in that car, those were not his drugs, and he was not driving. He was not there."
Prosecutor Clarence W. Beall III said that Westminster police didn't just rely on Private Shobert's identification when they charged Mr. Magruder.
The 1989 Honda that nearly ran into Officer Shobert's police cruiser belongs to Mr. Magruder's girlfriend, Jennifer Flag, also of Phlox Circle in Owings Mills, Mr. Beall said.
Although the car was reported stolen the next morning, there was no evidence it had been broken into, Mr. Beall said.
"The defendant had access to the car," Mr. Beall said, adding that Ms. Flag had come down with the flu the day before she reported the car stolen and returned home early from work.
"That's why the car was not tampered with."
Later, Mr. Shemer countered Mr. Beall's statements by saying that Ms. Flag told police she'd left her keys in the car and that the doors were unlocked that day.
In February 1993, Mr. Magruder, also known as Ryan Lamont Magruder, was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of driving with a suspended license. It was the third time that year he had been convicted of a driving license violation.
In June 1993, he pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $80,000 from the offices of Baugher's Enterprises in Westminster. He received a five-year sentence with two years suspended in that case.
Court officials have said they expect the trial, being heard by Carroll County Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., to be finished tomorrow evening.