Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Jones ordered a mistrial Wednesday in the trial of a Baltimore mother and neighborhood man accused of shooting a 13-year-old over an argument among middle school girls two years ago.
Jones faulted prosecutors for failing to disclose information about an alternate suspect in the shooting, said Roya Hanna, a defense attorney in the case.
“The discovery violations represent a systemic failure of the state’s attorney’s office to provide adequate discovery and protect defendants’ constitutional rights,” she said.
It’s the second discovery violation by prosecutors in a high-profile case in recent days. Last week, another Baltimore Circuit Court judge found prosecutors did not provide certain information to defense attorneys for Malik Samartaney, formerly Lawrence Banks. The judge thought the offense did not warrant a mistrial, and Samartaney was convicted of second-degree murder.
Officials in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office disputed Hanna’s statement that discovery violations are widespread. A Baltimore police sergeant failed to turn over the information that resulted in the mistrial Wednesday, said Janice Bledsoe, deputy state’s attorney for major crimes.
“Sgt. Valentine Nagovich did not turn over to the State’s Attorney’s Office discovery that he should have turned over, and he admitted that,” Bledsoe said. “We are taking corrective measures with BPD to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and BPD has been supportive.”
Nagovich could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
The judge’s order sends the case back to reception court to be rescheduled for trial. A spokeswoman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said prosecutors will seek to retry the case next week.
The mistrial came during the first day of testimony in the trial of Lasheena Stewart, 38, and Antwan Newton, 21. The two defendants from the Barclay neighborhood of Baltimore are charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and gun charges in the shooting of 13-year-old Jayden Franklin-Williams.
Stewart and Newton are accused of shooting Jayden over an argument the girl had with Stewart’s daughter and another classmate. Amid back-and-forth confrontations between the girls, Stewart allegedly yelled out “shoot her.” Newton allegedly pulled the trigger.
Before trial started Wednesday, both rejected plea deals for 40 years in prison.
Jayden was shot in her upper spine and paralyzed from the waist down, according to court records. She spent months in therapy at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, her mother said.
In opening arguments, defense attorneys blamed Jayden, saying she showed up to confront Stewart’s daughter with a crowd of kids armed with knives, sticks and guns. Someone broke a window of Stewart’s home with a two-by-four studded with nails. Stewart called 911 desperate for help, her attorney, Hanna, said.
Hanna contended the gun was fired by someone in Jayden’s crew and the girl was hit accidentally. In the hospital, Jayden made up the story to blame her friend’s mother, Hanna told the jury.
The prosecution’s case hinges on statements Jayden made to police naming Stewart and Newton as responsible.
“The physical evidence in this case does not match Jayden’s story,” Hanna said.
Defense attorney Chris Purpura said his client, Newton, has an alibi. He was home with his girlfriend, Purpura said.