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One convicted, mistrial declared for four others in murder of toddler in Cherry Hill

Four men will be retried in the shooting death of a 16-month-old boy after their first trial ended in a hung jury, prosecutors said Monday.

Carter Scott was in the back seat of his father's car near the Cherrydale Apartments in 2013 when multiple shooters fired at the vehicle at least 16 times, prosecutors said. The child was shot in the legs and bled to death.

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His father, who prosecutors say was the target of the attack, was hit several times but survived.

The toddler's death stunned Baltimoreans and spurred calls for action — and then became emblematic of the challenges authorities face in gaining the cooperation of witnesses they need to make arrests and secure convictions. Carter's father, Rashaw Scott, had to be brought to court on a bench warrant and forced to testify.

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A 12-person jury found Cornell Harvey, 28, guilty last week of first-degree murder in the death of Carter Scott, attempted first-degree murder in the attack on Rashaw Scott and conspiring to commit murder.

But a lone holdout on the jury at Baltimore Circuit Court blocked the conviction of Harvey's co-defendants Eddie Tarver, 23, Reginald Love, 27, Dequan Shields, 22, and Rashid Mayo, 24.

State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby declared a partial victory.

"The tragic murder of an innocent 1-year-old baby is completely intolerable, so I am pleased to know that one of the men responsible for taking this child's life will rightfully spend time behind bars," she said in a statement Monday. "We will continue to seek justice on behalf of this child and his family."

During the trial, prosecutors said Harvey lured Rashaw Scott to the apartment complex, where others waited to ambush him. Harvey was found not guilty of two gun charges.

An attorney for Harvey said there was "no evidence connecting Mr. Harvey to these acts other than his mere presence" at the parking lot where the shooting occurred.

"We can only imagine that the high emotions of having a young victim made the jury feel like somebody had to pay," attorney Joshua Insley said Monday. "But Mr. Harvey has now become yet another victim of this senseless act."

Prosecutors said the jury voted 11 to 1 on Friday to find Tarver, Love, Shields and Mayo guilty of the same charges as Harvey.

Jurors must vote unanimously for a conviction. With the panel divided, Judge John Addison Howard declared mistrials.

A new trial for Tarver, Love, Shields and Mayo is scheduled for Oct. 13, a spokeswoman for Mosby said. All four are being held without bond.

Harvey's sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 31. He could receive as many as three consecutive life sentences.

The trial, which took place amid a spike in killings, shootings and other violence in the city — some of it targeting children — highlighted again the difficulty that prosecutors sometimes confront when they try to get witnesses and victims to testify, even when small children are caught in the crossfire.

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According to prosecutors, Rashaw Scott told police officers at the scene that Harvey had set him up. But as the trial began, he changed his story. Scott testified that police coerced and coached him to provide the statements he made about the shooting while he was in a hospital recovering from his wounds. On the stand, he said he didn't remember much of the incident.

"I went to meet Harvey, and I got shot," Scott testified. "[The police] suggested he lured me, and it's a possibility. I'm not sure."

When prosecutors showed him a photo lineup with his signature, Scott said he didn't remember signing it.

"That could be anybody's," he told Assistant State's Attorney Tonya LaPolla. "It could be anybody's. It could be yours. I'm not an analyst."

When prosecutors return to court in October, they are likely to face the same challenge.

Prosecutors did not establish a motive for the shooting during the trial, and it was unclear why Scott was reluctant to testify. He could not be reached for comment Monday. John Cox, an attorney who has represented him in the past, declined to comment.

Lynn McLain, a professor emerita at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said the fact that 11 of 12 jurors voted to convict all five of the defendants showed the state had a strong case and could win at retrial.

But the issue of Rashaw Scott's changed story will continue to hamper prosecutor's efforts, McLain said.

"We have to face the fact that that is what's happening," McLain said. "So often people in the throes of the immediate event will speak from their hearts, I think, and say what they really believed happened.

"And then by the time trial comes on so much later, they think, 'Gee, why should I get involved?' or 'I can't bring this person back, so why am I sticking my neck out?'"

Defense attorneys said witnesses gave inconsistent statements about the number of gunmen at the scene.

"The witnesses say two shooters — three at the most," Michael Mitchell, an attorney for Tarver, said during the trial. "The state will not be able to prove there were four shooters."

Mitchell declined to comment Monday.

Prosecutors said Love and Shields were linked to the crime by DNA evidence found on gloves at the scene and in a car that police tracked from the scene for six miles into West Baltimore. A police officer said he saw Mayo climb into the car before it sped away, and Tarver was captured jumping out at the end of the ride.

Mayo was arrested in Louisiana two months after the killing. His attorney, Alex Leikus, declined to comment Monday.

Neither Jane McGough, a public defender representing Shields, nor Sharon May, an attorney for Love, could be reached for comment.

The trial began with an unusually lengthy jury selection process and was delayed when the court closed during the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray, 25, died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. Police have said citizens have been cooperating with police less than usual since then, and the department's clearance rate for homicides has dipped.

Officials have pushed especially hard for witnesses to come forward with information in cases in which the victims were children.

McLain, the law professor, said threats against witnesses remain a major impediment to justice in the city.

"Entire neighborhoods are intimidated just because of the culture," she said. "If a gang is running a neighborhood, [witnesses] know that they or their family members are going to get killed if they testify.

"It's such a hard thing to do to get people to take the risk."

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