As jurors began deliberating Friday in the case of a man accused of killing an off-duty Baltimore police officer, they faced two widely differing accounts of what happened in the deadly dispute over a Canton parking spot.
Either Brian Stevenson, an 18-year veteran of the police force, and his friend Kitrick Stewart openly threatened a group of twenty-somethings with a shooting — as the defense claims. Or 26-year-old Sian James singlehandedly ratcheted up an argument into a deadly assault, striking Stevenson in the head with a concrete block — as argued by the prosecution.
James took the stand Friday, echoing testimony given earlier by his former roommate Robert Gibson and Gibson's girlfriend, Nicole Sauer, that Stevenson, who was celebrating his birthday last Oct. 16, had threatened to shoot Gibson. James said he picked up a piece of concrete and hurled it at Stevenson from 10 feet away, aiming to hit his body.
Instead, the rock hit the left side of Stevenson's head, fracturing his skull. Stevenson, a married father of two, died shortly afterward.
"I thought I was gonna die," James said on the stand, crying. "I thought he was going to shoot me, and shoot my friend."
James, Sauer and Gibson also testified that after Stevenson was hit, Stewart yelled "Give me the gun!" to him, a claim Stewart categorically denied.
Prosecutor Charles Blomquist questioned whether James and his friends truly felt threatened, noting that they continued with their plan of going to a downtown club. Police found the group at Mosaic around midnight, about two hours after the Canton incident.
"That was so upsetting to you, that you sought comfort at the Mosaic nightclub?" Blomquist asked during cross examination.
"I didn't seek comfort. We proceeded with our night," James replied.
Blomquist also pointed to the testimony of Brooke Reaney, who testified that she overheard the dispute but never heard guns or shootings mentioned.
Much of the defense centered on Sauer, Gibson, and James' claims that Stevenson was drunk and belligerent when he encountered the friends in the parking lot and began arguing over who had the right to a parking spot.
Stewart acknowledged that he and Stevenson had been drinking throughout the night. A medical examiner testified that Stevenson's blood-alcohol content was .07 percent; the legal limit in Maryland is .08 percent.
Stevenson "was killed because he wanted to take the lives of two other people," said James' attorney, John Denholm, in his closing statement. "That's what was in the mind of Mr. James."
But Blomquist argued in his closing statement that Stevenson's and Stewart's drinking was irrelevant. "The defense drags the legacy of Brian Stevenson through the mud with this lunacy of self-defense," he said.
James, a Jamaican immigrant who came to the U.S. in August 2005, was out on bail for a sex assault charge at the time of the killing. Those charges are pending.