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Woman acquitted of attempted murder charges in '05 shooting

April 22, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

Musliman "Mizzah" Clark raised her arms and stood up smiling Friday after a Washington County Circuit Court jury foreman announced the panel acquitted her of attempted murder charges in connection with a November 2005 shooting that wounded a 17-year-old boy.

After about 90 minutes of deliberations on the second day of trial, the jury of eight woman and four men returned with acquittals on the most serious charges: attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault. The jury found her guilty of three lesser charges - second-degree assault and third- and fourth-degree burglary - of the 10 charges they considered in connection with the Nov. 22 shooting at 13 S. Cannon Ave. in Hagerstown.

Clark, who took the witness stand in her defense Friday, denying she shot Timothy Jerome Thomas Jr., but admitting she had a "tussle" with him when shots were fired, told Circuit Judge John H. McDowell before he pronounced sentence, "I suffered enough. I ask for my freedom."

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McDowell sentenced Clark, 25, to serve 15 years in prison on the three convictions, merging the burglary charges for sentencing. He ordered she serve 7 1/2 years for second-degree assault and a consecutive 7 1/2 years for third-degree burglary.

In explaining his sentence, McDowell told Clark, "The jury found you did not pull the trigger of the gun, but you were there when the violence happened. Your actions allowed that to take place."

Thomas was shot through the chest and through the hand, but survived his injuries.

Clark, 25, earlier told jurors that she did go to Nyoka Scott's apartment, at 13 S. Cannon Ave., on Nov. 22 because Thomas, who is Scott's brother, accused her of stealing some "clothes and boots" and told her he was there.

Upon her arrival at the apartment, Clark testified she saw Scott outside and told James Williams, who gave her a ride there, to wait. Clark testified Scott was "being real rude" and asked her to leave, at which point Clark testified she walked back to the car, only to turn back after Thomas and his friend, Felix Hawkins, came outside and called her names.

"I did get upset and ran into the apartment building," she said. "It was a reaction to an action."

Clark explained that she did not bust through the door as witnesses Thursday described, but instead, the door "never got to the sill where it shut closed."

Clark testified she got in "a tussle" with Thomas and heard shots fired, but could not say from which direction the blasts came.

She testified she did not have a gun.

"I don't play with guns," she said.

Thomas, in his testimony Thursday, identified Clark as the woman who shot him that day about 3:56 p.m. Other witnesses identified Clark as the woman who confronted Scott in front of the apartment before shots were fired.

In his closing argument, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil told jurors to consider why shell casings were found in the living room - the front room of the apartment through which Clark entered - and why bullet holes were found in another room's wall, indicating shots were fired from the entranceway.

"She has her story exactly backwards," he said.

Veil later said, "Witnesses agree she was there with a gun. She was upset and angry ... She is the spark that ignited this whole case."

He suggested that if Clark were innocent, why would she, as she testified, play with her nephew and go shopping after the confrontation. Clark was arrested Dec. 7 in Winchester, Va.

"What did she do. She fled," Veil said.

One of Clark's defense attorneys, Eric Reed, in his closing argument, told jurors it's possible someone else came into the apartment and fired a weapon "just to break it up."

"It's as easily true as what the state has proposed happened," he said.

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