A 24-year-old Baltimore man was convicted of first-degree murder yesterday by a Harford County jury in the shooting death of a friend in June 2005. He could be the first person in three years sentenced to death in Maryland.
Travis Davon Terry, who shot and killed longtime friend Edwin Lee Potillo and wounded Potillo's girlfriend after a night of drinking and drug use in a Dundalk apartment, leaned forward and smiled as the jury read the verdict after more than five hours of deliberations.
In convicting Terry of first-degree premeditated murder, the Harford County jury agreed with the prosecution's claim that he was aware of his actions but did not agree that Terry killed Potillo in an attempted robbery, rejecting charges of first-degree felony murder and attempted robbery with a weapon.
The jury also convicted Terry of robbing and attempting to kill Potillo's girlfriend after shooting Potillo.
That could complicate the case as it enters the sentencing phase today. Maryland's statute requires that prosecutors seeking the death penalty prove a first-degree murder and an accompanying "aggravating factor," such as a rape, robbery or carjacking.
"You have to find that the defendant committed murder while trying to commit a robbery. But the great unanswered question is, does [the victim of both acts] have to be the same person?" said Gary E. Proctor, a capital defense attorney who is not involved in the case.
"There is no Maryland case law on it that I can see whatsoever," Proctor said. "I would be flabbergasted if [Terry's attorneys] didn't walk in with a motion to dismiss it."
Attorneys from both sides could not be reached yesterday for comment about how that aspect might affect sentencing.
Charges were brought against Terry in Baltimore County, but the case was heard in Bel Air under a provision that gives defendants in a death penalty case an automatic right of removal to another jurisdiction.
Though Baltimore County has pursued the death penalty in all possible cases, Terry is the first person since Jamaal K. Abeokuto in 2004 to be convicted and face the possibility of a death sentence in Maryland.
Terry opted yesterday to be sentenced by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox, sending his trial back to Towson.
Prosecutors said Terry was with Potillo and Jennifer Parvizimotlagh when he pulled a gun and shot Potillo without provocation. He then told Parvizimotlagh to go through Potillo's pockets and ordered her into a bedroom after she objected.
He stole $60 from her, then swayed from side to side with the gun behind his back, prosecutors said. Fearing for her life, she charged him and was shot in the shoulder.
Defense attorney Kay A. Beehler sought to raise doubt that Terry committed the crime, saying the evidence showed only that Terry was in the apartment that night. There was no evidence of an argument or altercation that would have prompted his actions, she said.
Beehler also pointed to testimony from Parvizimotlagh, who could not identify Terry as the assailant. She said only that her attacker had hair similar to Terry's.
Beehler also told jurors that the prosecution had evidence of little more than second-degree murder, a comment that was essentially an admission of his guilt, Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Garret Glennon told jurors.