A 21-year-old man charged in the stabbing death of a Morgan State University student was acquitted of murder Thursday evening by a jury, but convicted on a lesser count of accessory after the fact.
Jurors took less than an hour to deliberate, according to the mother of defendant Harry Robertson. The Baltimore state's attorney's office confirmed that jurors had found Robertson not guilty of first- and second-degree murder in the death in February of Gerald Williams; he was also acquitted of a weapons charge.
He faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years at sentencing next month, prosecutors said.
"From Day One, I have affirmed that my son was innocent [of the killing]," said Melinda Robertson, who attended each day of her son's trial.
Williams died Feb. 1 after being stabbed in the femoral artery during a brawl. Prosecutors said Williams' friend, Daequan Gordon, had obtained $50 in counterfeit money and sought a drug dealer who could sell him $10 worth of marijuana and give him $40 in real cash. When the dealer realized he had been cheated, he demanded the money back from Gordon.
Gordon testified that he agreed to meet the dealer but had no intention of paying him back. Gordon's group, which included Williams, and the dealer's group, which included Robertson, came face to face outside the Morgan View apartment complex and a fight broke out.
A student who said she witnessed the fight came forward weeks later and said she saw Robertson holding a knife as Williams charged at him, and saw Williams go down. "He stabbed him!" the student remembered exclaiming.
Robertson took the stand in his own defense, saying he was part of the fight but that he was not battling Williams and did not stab him.
He acknowledged jumping into a car with several others to flee the scene, and said one of the people in the car had blood on his clothing. He did not report what he saw, prompting the charge of being an accessory.
Defense attorney David Shapiro criticized the police investigation of the case, suggesting that another participant in the fight was responsible but had not been checked out by police.
"They can't give you the evidence you deserve to make a weighty, weighty decision," Shapiro told jurors Thursday.
Shapiro invoked the recent milestone of 300 homicides, and said police were too overworked to do a proper investigation.
Because Robertson took the stand, jurors learned that he had been kicked out of Morgan State a year earlier after being involved in a brawl in which two football players were stabbed. He was attending Coppin State University at the time of Williams' stabbing. Robertson testified he'd never been in trouble before, prompting Assistant State's Attorney Traci Robinson to bring up the expulsion.
Robinson suggested that the 2015 fight, in which Robertson was hurt, prompted Robertson to arm himself with a knife.
"He brought a knife to a fist fight," Robinson said. "Now we know why."
Robinson said the student witness was credible, and Robertson's attorney was trying to distract the jury with red herrings.
An earlier version misstated when the jury was to begin deliberations. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.