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Defense challenges officers in slaying case

February 06, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Defense attorney John P. Corderman grilled police detectives Thursday about their investigation of a New Jersey man's death in 2002, asking why some witness accounts of the Jonathan Street shooting were disregarded during a search he said focused too quickly on his client.

Corderman's client, Karim Ali Ward, 28, whose last address before his arrest was 1725 Springhouse Court in Frederick, Md., is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and several handgun charges in the Dec. 14, 2002, death of Carl Anthony Wallace, 28, of Asbury Park, N.J.

In Washington County Circuit Court Thursday, Corderman asked Hagerstown Police Department Detective Patricia Moulton how long it took her to perform a door-to-door search for witnesses to the shooting outside 466 N. Jonathan St. on the morning of Dec. 14, 2002. She replied that she began at 5 a.m. and got back to police headquarters at about 8 a.m.

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Shree Harrell testified Wednesday that a fight between her sister and Takima White, who lived at 466 N. Jonathan St., escalated at about 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 14 when Ward, White's then-boyfriend, fired gunshots, first in the air and then at Wallace.

After questioning Moulton about each neighbor she interviewed that morning, Corderman told her that two witnesses placed three of the women whom police suspected were at the shooting scene on a different street at the time Wallace was shot. Moulton testified during cross-examination by Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Michael that the witnesses to whom Corderman referred were deemed unreliable.

On cross-examination, Moulton said a different witness told her he overheard a conversation between "two girls" that placed the gun in Ward's hands and identified him as Takima White's boyfriend.

Michael asked Moulton, "During the entire scope of the investigation, did any other suspects come to light?"

"No," Moulton said.

Corderman questioned Hagerstown Police Department Lt. Margaret Kline about a 4:30 a.m. traffic stop she made in front of North Hagerstown High School based on a witness description of the suspect in the shooting.

Kline said she was looking for a black male, about 6 feet tall with dreadlocks, wearing either a black puffy jacket or a bright yellow jacket. She said she pulled over the car because she thought the driver fit that description.

When Kline pulled over the car she found that the man inside was wearing a bright orange shirt and had a black puffy jacket in the back seat. She testified he was about 6 feet tall, but did not have dreadlocks and she let him go on his way.

Corderman asked her why she didn't take a picture of the driver and place it in a photo array that later was shown to witnesses. On cross-examination, Kline said she knew police had a file photo of the driver because he had been through the process before.

For nearly 90 minutes, Corderman questioned Hagerstown Police Department Detective Steve Hoover about why each of the interviews he conducted at police headquarters was recorded in under 10 minutes, why some suspect descriptions were not broadcast over the police radio and why some witnesses never gave him a statement.

Hoover replied that he didn't specifically remember broadcasting a description after each witness provided a description of the shooter, that other detectives also conducted interviews and took statements and that longer interviews were conducted before he recorded witness statements.

Michael asked Hoover on cross-examination, "Have there been any efforts to hide any facts from this jury?"

"Absolutely not," Hoover said.

Later Michael asked, "You had to struggle to get witnesses to come forward in this case?"

Hoover said yes, adding that at least two witnesses were afraid to make statements to police.

The defense rested its case. Ward did not take the stand.

The trial is to resume today with closing arguments and jury instructions, but Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley instructed jurors to call a hotline to find out if the proceedings would be delayed because of the weather.

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