Advertisement
Crime

‘Sloppy police work’: Jury acquits man accused of killing ex-Maryland football player

A Baltimore jury acquitted a man Wednesday on all charges in the killing of former University of Maryland football player David Mackall Jr.

Charged with first-degree murder, Kalim Satterfield’s trial lasted four days and hinged almost entirely on the statements of two witnesses to the shooting, Mackall’s girlfriend and her father, who had identified Satterfield from police photo arrays. Satterfield did not testify and spent most of the trial expressionless, staring at whichever lawyer was speaking.

Advertisement

“I won’t sleep at night,” Mackall’s mother told others in the courtroom, sobbing, after the verdict was read.

Both the Mackall and Satterfield families declined to speak with The Baltimore Sun. At one point in the trial, members of both families got into an argument in the hallway outside the courtroom, briefly stopping the proceedings. Judge Philip Jackson warned both sides if another incident happened, he would close the courtroom to the families.

Advertisement

Mackall was gunned down in the middle of a West Baltimore street on a May afternoon in 2019 as his girlfriend and her family looked on. Witnesses told police they didn’t get a good look at the shooter’s face, but that he and Mackall were talking across the street for close to 45 minutes to an hour before the alleged shooter drove away. He reappeared a few minutes later, walking out of an alley in the same clothes but with his face covered, and shot Mackall eight times.

Detectives could not definitively place Satterfield at the scene of the crime and were unable to find any corroborating physical evidence: not the gun used, not DNA nor fingerprints from the scene. Not the white Honda Accord the shooter was seen driving. Not even the clothes the shooter wore — a pair of blue track pants with an orange stripe and white sneakers with an orange strap.

Donald Wright, Satterfield’s defense attorney, challenged both of the witnesses who testified and claimed detectives broke state law and pressured them into identifying his client as the shooter.

The witnesses initially described the shooter as a light-skinned Black man, and when police showed photos to the them, most of the men pictured, save for Satterfield and one other, had a darker complexion. In one instance, police showed James Chase, one of the witnesses, pictures of 28 different men and only one was light-skinned.

“It’s sloppy police work,” Wright said. “In this context, it’s inexcusable.”

In one interview, Chase told Baltimore police detectives 10 times he didn’t recognize the shooter in the photos they showed him.

“It’s none of the people in these pictures,” he told Detective Gary Niedermeier on June 5, 2019. “The boy was lighter [skinned].”

Wright took particular issue with how police completed the double-blind photo array for both witnesses. It is Baltimore Police Department policy that officers without ties to the case conduct photo arrays to identify a suspect to make sure investigators don’t coerce someone into identifying the wrong person.

Advertisement

But in this case, Niedermeier reviewed the photos with both witnesses after the array, which Wright called a violation of department policy.

Lead Detective Frank Miller, who said on the stand that he was the longest-serving homicide detective in Baltimore, testified it was common for the case detectives to review photo arrays with witnesses after the initial array.

“I hope the Baltimore Police Department receives the message that this type of police work will not be tolerated by the people,” Wright said after the trial ended.

Where Wright saw sloppiness and exculpatory evidence, Assistant State’s Attorney Shaundria Hanna saw corroboration and proof detectives had the right person all along. For example, the FBI analyzed location data from Satterfield’s cellphone, which put him in the general vicinity of the West Baltimore neighborhood where Mackall was killed.

Police also recovered from one of the places Satterfield might have been living a Nike shoe box that once contained a pair of shoes similar to what the shooter was wearing. Surveillance footage from the day of the shooting shows a person wearing clothes that match the two testifying witnesses’s descriptions of the shooter, but the video is grainy and the person’s face is never seen.

Police even tracked down a white Honda Accord, the type of car the shooter drove, which was seen on CCTV footage leaving the scene of the shooting, but did not interview the suspect because the car did not exactly match witnesses’s descriptions of it, Miller testified.

Advertisement

The two eyewitnesses also had their credibility challenged in court. Novella Chase, Mackall’s girlfriend at the time, told detectives in her first two interviews she didn’t get a good look at the shooter.

“I didn’t see his face,” she told detectives in a June 6, 2019, interview during which police showed her photos of possible suspects. “I just keep staring at the light ones, hoping that something pops.”

A few weeks later, Novella Chase started receiving follower requests on Instagram from people she thought were on the block talking to Mackall before the shooting. One of them was Satterfield, and she recognized him from the photos police showed her.

In a June 22 interview with detectives, Novella Chase would tell detectives she was “80% sure” Satterfield was the shooter.

Novella Chase also received substantial financial assistance — about $70,000 in the form of rent and utility payments — from the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office as part of victim relocation and assistance services, which Wright raised questions about.

Breaking News Alerts

Breaking News Alerts

As it happens

Be informed of breaking news as it happens and notified about other don't-miss content with our free news alerts.

Hanna said that assisting a victim of a crime is not paying for testimony.

Advertisement

“We’re not paying someone for 80% sure,” Hanna told the jury.

James Chase at times grew frustrated during his cross-examination and became combative with Wright.

“He wasn’t in those photos they showed me,” James Chase said during his testimony, while also saying that Satterfield was the shooter.

Upon leaving the witness stand, James Chase repeatedly yelled, “This is f------ ridiculous,” as he made his way to the door.

Hanna said the Chases’ behavior and shifting statements to police in 2019 could be explained simply: They were scared of retaliatory violence if they cooperated with the investigation.

“In Baltimore City, that’s how you get hurt,” Novella Chase said told jurors.


Advertisement