Calling a Waldorf man "essentially a hired killer," an Anne Arundel County prosecutor told a jury Tuesday that Jerold R. Burks shot a pregnant Crofton hairdresser in the head last year to clear a $400 drug debt with her married boyfriend, who had wanted her to have an abortion.
In his opening statement, Assistant State's Attorney Crighton A. Chase said Burks, 22, "could not keep the terrible secret of what he'd done" and told friends he was worried that Jodi Torok, who survived the Oct. 27, 2008, shooting, might be able to identify him.
But defense lawyer Robert D. Cole Jr. countered that no hard evidence tied Burks to the crime, leaving only his fabricated stories. "What you have is Jerry talking to his friends," Cole said. One friend spilled the story to his stepfather and then to police.
Police charged the wrong man, Cole maintained, and he sought to cast suspicion on another man who Cole said lied to detectives and later refused to testify before a grand jury because he feared incriminating himself. Cole expects to call Steven Burdette as a defense witness, though it's possible Burdette would again invoke his right to remain silent.
Burks is charged with attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy and related counts in what prosecutors said was a scheme to deal with the pregnant girlfriend of Charles Brandon Martin, a 32-year-old Waldorf man who was expecting his fourth child with his wife.
Martin's trial on attempted murder and related charges is to start at the end of November. After being free on bond for months, Martin was jailed last month to await trial. Prosecutors alleged that he intimidated another of his girlfriends, pushing her to change her statements that she kept Martin's semiautomatic handgun in her nightstand and that Martin confirmed to her that he took it the day Torok was shot.
Torok, 27, testified from a wheelchair, though her memory of that day is nearly blank. She said she was dating another man as well as Martin when she became pregnant, and was "more certain" that Martin was the father.
The trial, before Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North, is expected to continue all week.