The evidence used by the Baltimore Police Department to exonerate Officer Darlene Early when she shot an unarmed man in the back in 1993 came under attack in a Circuit Court civil trial this week by experts testifying for the dead man's family.
Yesterday in the fourth and final day of testimony in a lawsuit brought by the wife and children of Raleigh D. Lemon Jr., the deceased man, a key forensics witness for the plaintiffs blasted the department's central finding in the case.
Within a few days after the Jan. 13, 1993 slaying, police ruled that Ms. Early had fired in self-defense when Mr. Lemon -- an escaped prisoner who bolted away from the officer when she took him to Bon Secours Hospital for medical treatment -- turned and tried to grab her 9 mm Glock pistol.
To support the claim, police said they had recovered traces of gunshot residue from Mr. Lemon's hand that could only have gotten there if his hand was near the gun when it went off. The finding, they said, confirmed Officer Early's account of the shooting.
But Dr. Richard Saferstein, a former chief forensic scientist for the New Jersey State Police, testified as a paid expert for Mr. Lemon's family that the traces were so minuscule that they could not support the officer's account of a point-blank self-defense gunshot.
Jury deliberations will begin Monday.