CHESTERTOWN - Jurors were told yesterday that one of two Kent County brothers accused of murder and a hate crime in the shooting of a 73-year-old black woman used a racial slur before firing two shotgun blasts that killed Germaine Porcea Clarkston and injured two other black women as they returned from a Christmas shopping trip in December.
In opening statements in the murder trial of Daniel R. Starkey, 20, county prosecutor Robert H. Strong Jr. said Starkey's elder brother David W. Starkey, 24, bragged to a friend during a cellular phone conversation minutes after the shooting that he would be getting a "13th tattoo," an apparent reference to the number of stars on a Confederate flag.
The brothers, life-long residents of the small town of Millington near the Delaware border, are accused of tailing the women for more than 20 miles along winding country roads to the predominantly black neighborhood of Georgetown outside Chestertown.
As Daniel Starkey pulled his 1988 Chevrolet pickup alongside the compact car carrying the three women, David Starkey said, "I'm going to get me one of these," then used a racial epithet, Strong told jurors.
Defense attorney Thomas McCarthy Sr. said he would not dispute many of the facts in the case, acknowledging that each brother has admitted following the women for about 30 minutes after a minor traffic incident at a new traffic circle overpass above U.S. 301 near Millington. Each has admitted that Daniel Starkey drove the pickup as his elder brother fired the shot from the passenger window that killed Clarkston a quarter-mile from her home.
McCarthy urged jurors not to confuse the actions of Daniel Starkey with those of his elder brother.
"You will find that the defense does not take issue with the clinical, essential elements of this case," McCarthy said. "We don't dispute many facts, but we dispute that Danny knew his brother was going to fire that gun. Danny did not know, if it can be proved at all, that his brother intended to kill anybody."
Strong and McCarthy noted a 911 call made by David Starkey minutes before the shooting -reporting that the car the brothers were following apparently was being driven by a drunken driver - to bolster their arguments.
Strong, who played the tape in court, told the all-white jury, which was chosen yesterday from among 90 prospective jurors, that the tape provides a documented link to the Starkey brothers. McCarthy said the tape raises questions about the motives of the two men.
"I ask you, if someone is about to kill someone in that car, do they call the police on 911 and announce it?" McCarthy said.
State and local officials with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are monitoring the case. Douglas Jones, Kent County NAACP chapter president, sat yesterday with nearly a dozen members of Clarkston's family, who sat across the aisle from the Starkey family in the second-floor courtroom.
Federal agents began a civil rights investigation shortly after Clarkston was shot Dec. 4 as she returned home from a Christmas shopping trip to Dover, Del., with her cousin Meriam G. Spriggs, 68, and Spriggs' daughter Michelle Wilson, 38. The FBI investigation, which could result in further charges against the Starkey brothers, has not been completed.
Spriggs, the first witness to testify in the case, admitted yesterday that she lied to police after the shooting, telling them she was driving Clarkston's 1988 Plymouth Horizon. Spriggs said her daughter had asked her to say she was the driver because Wilson's license had expired.
Wilson, who is expected to testify today, was driving on a revoked license. After the shooting, Wilson, who was treated for minor injuries at Kent & Queen Anne's Hospital in Chestertown, was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.15, twice the legal limit. The Starkey brothers, who each face eight charges, are scheduled for back-to-back trials before Kent County Circuit Judge J. Frederick Price. Daniel's trial is expected to be completed this week. His brother is set to be tried Monday.