The trial opened yesterday for two men charged with killing a 16-year-old in Southwest Baltimore as he waited in the back of his girlfriend's white sedan on New Year's Day 2006.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Allen L. Schwait ruled almost immediately that the two men - Michael McFadden and Robert Louis Dixon - would get separate trials. McFadden's trial began yesterday and Dixon's was postponed.
McFadden, 18, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Ronny Martin, as well as the use of a deadly weapon and being an accessory after the fact. But his trial will be separate from Dixon's because of a perceived difference in their roles in the case. According to court documents, a witness said Dixon shot the gun that killed Martin, while McFadden drove the getaway car.
During opening testimony, prosecutor Cynthia M. Banks attempted to show a close connection between Dixon - who is sometimes identified as Anthony Dickson and whose listed age on court records ranges from 19 to 21 - and McFadden, implying that McFadden knew he would be an accomplice to the shooting. But McFadden's defense questioned the identification of McFadden by a witness, asking how she could have recognized the back of McFadden's head as she watched the getaway car roll though a stop sign and slip away.
According to court documents, a witness saw a red Cadillac pull onto the 2600 block of Marbourne Ave. on the evening of Jan. 1, 2006, with McFadden and Dixon inside. According to the documents, Dixon shot into the sedan where Martin was sitting and then returned to the Cadillac, which drove away.
Martin's girlfriend, Christina Thomas, 20, testified yesterday she had driven Martin to Marbourne Avenue and left him in the back seat of her white sedan while she visited a friend.
Minutes later, she said, she heard a gunshot, "and there was a hole in my window."
But after further questioning, it became unclear how much of the shooting and subsequent getaway Thomas actually saw. She admitted that she lied to a detective in an initial interview, and that she had not seen Dixon shoot the gun. She first said she couldn't remember seeing anyone in the car other than Dixon, then later said she saw both defendants.
The trials for the two men have been complicated by charges of witness intimidation. Dixon's mother, Rose Marie Peterson, 39, a former correctional officer at the Central Booking and Intake Center, is awaiting trial, set for Aug. 27, on charges of intimidating one of the witnesses in her son's case.
Court documents charge that three weeks after the murder, Peterson used a key to enter the cell of a woman she believed was a witness in her son's case, a woman being held for charges unrelated to Martin's shooting. Peterson used a "confrontational stance," stated the documents, to question the witness until other detainees began to yell.
Police later charged Peterson with attempts to intimidate a witness, obstruction of justice, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. She posted $50,000 bail and was released and placed on administrative leave.