Slaying of minister took place after drug binge, attorneys say


Last Christmas Eve, James Thomas Wood grabbed the Rev. Samuel N. Booth Jr. by the throat, tried to get the minister's crack cocaine, then slashed him to death with a kitchen knife, prosecutors said yesterday at the opening of his murder trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

But defense lawyer J. David Ash said Mr. Wood, at the end of a 28-hour crack cocaine binge, "went crazy" from drugs after the minister grabbed him in a homosexual advance.

Mr. Wood, 25, of Harford County gave police a confession the next day in the death of Mr. Booth in the minister's trailer behind Christian Faith Tabernacle Church on Middle River Road. Mr. Wood is being tried on charges of first-degree murder and robbery.

Assistant State's Attorney Thomas A. Kane told the jury of six men and six women that Mr. Wood stated in the confession that he and Mr. Booth, the church's pastor, had obtained hundreds of dollars worth of crack cocaine, which they consumed.

When Mr. Booth tried to put an end to the drug binge, the defendant kicked him in the head, stomped and kicked his ribs, then got a knife from the kitchen. Taking cash and crack, Mr. Wood ran out in his blood-spattered sweat shirt and jeans, Mr. Kane said.

He said the jury's two main jobs -- to determine what crime was committed and who did it -- were virtually done because of the confession.

But Mr. Ash presented the jurors with two other tasks -- to determine what was on Mr. Wood's mind that night after ingesting 26 bags of crack cocaine within 28 hours, and whether the drugs left him capable of forming the intent to kill.

Clasping his client's shoulders and calling him "Jamie," Mr. Ash said the crack induced visual and auditory hallucinations. He said Mr. Booth declined to share more drugs with Mr. Wood, a son of a Baptist minister, when the defendant refused to take part in a sex act.

"Can a person, after 26 bags of cocaine, have in his brain the ability to understand what he's doing?" he asked, saying Mr. Wood was not guilty of first-degree murder.

The jury also heard testimony from police officers and a church member who found the body.

Judge Christian M. Kahl is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last all week.

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