When Jarrell Richey refused five years ago to shake his former friend's hand and let bygones be bygones, he apparently committed an unpardonable offense.
Spurned and furious, Gregory Deshaun Wilson returned later that day with a gun and, according to prosecutors in his trial for attempted murder, shot Richey in the leg and the chest, paralyzing him.
Yesterday, Wilson was given a life sentence in Baltimore County Circuit Court for shooting Richey on March 28, 2004, in the parking lot of an apartment building in Essex. He was also given a concurrent 20-year sentence, with all but five years suspended, for using a handgun in the commission of a violent crime.
Wilson was convicted late Monday of six counts, including attempted first- and second-degree murder, assault and carrying a handgun in a vehicle.
He was acquitted of four charges relating to an incident in a playground about an hour before the shooting in which, prosecutors said, he threatened Richey with a handgun. Prosecutors said Richey responded by saying he would fight Wilson with his fists if it came to that, but not with guns.
Wilson, 32, had already been convicted at a trial in 2005 of trying to kill Richey, but that verdict was reversed two years later by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which found that the trial judge had failed to adequately inquire into a disagreement between the defendant and his lawyer at the time. The appeals court ordered a new trial.
Yesterday in court, Wilson declined to address the court when given a chance to do so by Judge Mickey J. Norman.
During the trial, which lasted less than a week, the 25-year-old victim testified from his wheelchair that Wilson had sought to patch over their differences but that Richey had rejected the proffered handshake.
The prosecution presented two witnesses to the shooting, one of them Jeffrey Davis, an auto mechanic who was working on Richey's car at the time. The mechanic and Richey were bent over the engine when Wilson approached from behind with the gun, Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Roscher said.
As Wilson began firing, the victim cried out, " 'Help! He's killing me!' " Roscher said in his closing arguments. One bullet embedded itself in the side of a car, another in a tire, and a third hit Richey in the leg.
"The last one went into his chest," Roscher said, describing the 6-foot-4-inch gunman standing over the prone victim.
"When you shoot someone in the chest, isn't it obvious to everyone that it's an intent to cause someone's death?"
The other witness to the shooting was Vernon Horton, who lived in a third-floor apartment overlooking the parking lot and who said he shouted "Don't do it!" as Wilson pointed his gun at the victim and prepared to fire the last shot.
The defense presented one witness, Debbie Jean Geiman, who worked in the office of the apartment complex where the incident took place. She did not see the shooting, but testified that she had spoken with Davis, the mechanic, the next day and that he told her he did not know who had fired the shots. In court, however, Davis testified that he did see Wilson shoot the victim.
Wilson's defense attorney, James R. Dills, said Roscher had not put forward a credible motive for the crime, but the prosecutor responded that such incidents are common when questions of honor arise in a dispute.
"What's the cost of a refused handshake?" Roscher asked. "The motive is, 'You disrespected me.' "