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Trial opens in fatal stabbing after Ravens 2013 Super Bowl parade

Break in investigation of fatal stabbing after Ravens 2013 Super Bowl parade came from teen held at Western Md

Nearly two years ago, in the aftermath of the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl victory parade downtown that drew thousands, 15-year-old Deontae Smith was fatally stabbed during a fight in which two other teens were injured.

Yet, as the trial of Nazr Williams, the 17-year-old accused of murder and attempted murder, got underway Wednesday, the prosecution's case may come down to a lone, reluctant witness.

"Despite the efforts of the Baltimore Police Department, he is the only one who can give us a positive identification" of the suspect, Assistant State's Attorney Angela Diehl told jurors. "A single witness is enough to convict."

That witness, Darius Miller, was brought into the courtroom Wednesday morning in shackles attached to a leather belt wrapped around his waist. He expressed reluctance to testify, referring to being "scared something gonna happen to me."

Prosecutors agreed to grant Miller immunity for his role in the melee in exchange for his testimony, and Judge Alfred Nance signed an order compelling him to testify.

At least one other witness is refusing to testify, and Nance signed a warrant instructing police to find and arrest him to get him to court.

Diehl told jurors that the case had seemingly grown cold until five months after the killing. That's when Baltimore Police Detective Damon Talley got a call from Maryland State Police. The state agency said Miller, who was being held in a juvenile detention facility in Garrett County, wanted to come forward with information about a killing.

Williams' attorney, James Johnston, told jurors that police did a poor investigation, and that Miller has an agenda.

The stabbing occurred on Howard Street, three blocks from the Ravens parade route on Feb. 5, 2013, as people were leaving the event. Smith's family and the city police union criticized police officials for downplaying the incident — there was a delay in dispersing information about the crime on social media, and officials initially said the incident wasn't related to the parade.

Miller testified that he and Smith had gone to school that day at Patterson High School, but at around 9:30 a.m. they boarded a city bus with others to head to the celebration. Once they got there, Miller said, they were part of the group that scaled the fence of the stadium to get inside — an image that went viral at the time.

Afterward, Miller said, there were about 20 young men and women involved in the fight outside a McDonald's at North Howard and West Fayette streets, and that they took off running when police arrived.

"Deontae fell, then he got up and said, 'I think I got stabbed,'" Miller recounted. "He had blood all over him, and then he passed out."

The fight was captured on city surveillance cameras, and left blood on the sidewalks and inside the McDonald's. "It was very chaotic," Talley, the detective, testified Wednesday morning.

Diehl told jurors that Miller knew Williams from Patterson High, but that the stabbing victims did not know Williams. The reason for the fight that day was a simple territorial spat: "They was from over west, and we was from over east," Miller said.

Miller, whose name was not previously among the leads police were pursuing, came forward in June 2013 because "he was mad when he saw [Williams] — that he got to walk around and breathe the air while his friend was six feet under," Diehl told jurors.

But Miller testified he had other reasons to be angry at Williams. They had fought at Patterson High School a year before fighting at the parade, and when they ended up at the same 36-bed juvenile detention facility in June 2013 in Garrett County, they once again got into a fight.

Miller told authorities that the day he came forward, Williams had hit him in the face with a belt buckle.

Johnston, Williams' attorney, told jurors that Miller's account should not be trusted.

"It's not happenstance that police don't find Miller until he had an ax to grind five months later," Johnston said.

He noted that Miller is incarcerated on an armed-robbery charge, which court records show stems from a September incident.

Johnston also was critical of the police work in the case. He questioned why police didn't obtain additional video footage from the area where the fight occurred.

"Two cameras, in downtown Baltimore, in the business district? That was the extent of your effort?" Johnston asked Talley.

Johnston read off a list of more than 20 items seized as evidence, asking Talley to verify that clothing, blood samples and finger nail clippings all had not been submitted for forensic testing. Talley said they had not, because they belonged to the victims.

Johnston noted that "in a fight, individuals on both sides can be injured, can bleed, can have things under their fingernails."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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