Prosecution rests in Annapolis carjacking-slaying trial

The Baltimore Sun

The federal case against an Annapolis man accused in a carjacking-slaying near the State House moved toward its conclusion yesterday, as the prosecution rested and the defense indicated it would call one more witness today.

Leeander Jerome Blake, 22, is charged with murder and four related counts in the Sept. 19, 2002, slaying of Straughan Lee Griffin, 51, a businessman shot in the forehead in front of his house and then run over by his own Jeep Grand Cherokee as the assailants sped out of the cul-de-sac.

The case could go to the jury today.

Yesterday, federal prosecutors succeeded in preventing the jury in U.S. District Court in Baltimore from hearing Blake's mother, Lawanda M. Pierce, say what her son told her about the crime.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Purcell Jr. argued that Blake could take the witness stand to give the jury his account if he wanted, but so far there has been no indication that he will.

His mother, however, did testify that in the day or two before his October 2002 arrest, "he was scared and shaky and sweaty and he just was not" himself. She said she and her son, then 17, prayed after he confided in her.

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson also decided not to let the jury hear statements made by an inmate who claimed he heard Terrence Tolbert, who was convicted in 2005 of murdering Griffin, brag about the slaying. Nickerson said much of the inmate's statement was already contradicted by the evidence. Tolbert, a neighbor of Blake's in an Annapolis public housing neighborhood, was sentenced to life without parole plus 30 years.

Blake told police that he pointed out the victim to Tolbert, but that Tolbert shot Griffin, according to police testimony. The prosecution has offered no theory as to who was the shooter.

Jurors also heard former Annapolis police officer Curtis Reese deny that he suggested in a taunting way that Blake, while he was in a holding cell after his arrest, speak to police - a remark that led to the dismissal of the case in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

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