Man charged in killing said to give account

THE BALTIMORE SUN

During a 15-minute conversation in October with a Maryland State Police detective, Terrence Tolbert said, "I was there," but blamed a younger acquaintance for a fatal carjacking in the Annapolis Historic District a year ago, the detective testified yesterday.

Tolbert, now 20, said he and a teen-ager he knew only as "B" -- later identified as Leeander Jerome Blake -- had been smoking PCP and were looking for a ride to Glen Burnie the evening of Sept. 19, said Cpl. Lloyd Edward White Jr. Tolbert and Blake are Annapolis residents.

Straughan Lee Griffin, 51, was shot that night as he unloaded groceries outside his Cumberland Court home and then was run over with his Jeep Cherokee.

Tolbert said "B" carried the weapon, and when asked who shot Griffin and who drove the Jeep, Tolbert responded, "It wasn't me," White testified.

But jurors in Tolbert's first-degree murder trial, which is scheduled to start Tuesday, might not hear everything the young man told White after Tolbert failed a polygraph test on Oct. 26.

This month, Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth threw out all incriminating statements -- including a written account of the crime -- that Tolbert made to Annapolis Police Detective William Johns in White's presence later that evening.

When White, the polygraph administrator, told him the test had detected deception, Tolbert acknowledged a part in the crime, a report by White said. At that point, White summoned Johns, who led the investigation, to join the interview.

Silkworth ruled that only Tolbert's statements to White alone would be admissible because he was not a suspect at the time, but attorneys met with the judge yesterday to be sure they knew exactly which statements would be allowed in court.

"We either get this clarified now or in piecemeal through objections in front of a jury," defense attorney Mark A. Van Bavel said after the hearing.

Van Bavel again asked the judge to suppress all of Tolbert's comments to White, saying there was "no way to extricate" what Tolbert told White from what he later told both detectives.

Earlier ruling

The judge ruled Tolbert's statements to the two detectives inadmissible because they failed to advise the young man of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney after essentially taking him into custody.

White testified yesterday that he did not take notes during his one-on-one conversation with Tolbert or during the joint interview. He wrote a report the next day, he said.

Yesterday, Van Bavel pointed out what he said were several inconsistencies in White's account of the first interview.

The detective used Blake's name in his report even though Tolbert said he didn't know B's real name, Van Bavel said. And White wrote that "they" shot Griffin, the lawyer said, when Tolbert had told the detective he did not pull the trigger.

"I wasn't sure who did what, so I said 'they,'" White testified.

Blake, now 18, also has been charged with first-degree murder, but the teen-ager was freed in June after Circuit Judge Pamela L. North ruled that his alleged confession cannot be used at trial because police violated his rights.

Prosecutors have appealed, and a decision is expected early next month.

Other Miranda cases

By the end of yesterday's hearing, Silkworth said he would again need to review several cases involving Miranda rights as he sorted through Tolbert's conversation with White.

He advised the attorneys, who all appeared frustrated, to be available today if he had further questions.

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