Officer describes scene of slaying

February 06, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown Police Department officer Cliff Briggs remembers people "screaming, yelling" on East Franklin Street early on the morning of July 31, 2006, when he responded to a call of shots fired.

He testified Monday in Washington County Circuit Court that he could see a black female lying face down on the sidewalk. Blood was pooling at the woman's head, and it was clear that she was dead, he said.

Briggs was among the state's witnesses during the first day of the trial for Raheen Tajohn Edwin, 31, who faces murder charges in the death of 20-year-old Trisiviah Rodriguez.

Edwin, whose last known address was in Brooklyn, N.Y., is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree assault and other crimes in the shooting in downtown Hagerstown.


Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said in his opening statement that the ultimate question is not whether Edwin pulled the trigger, but whether he was involved in a crime that resulted in Rodriguez's death.

In his opening statement, Edwin's attorney stressed to the jury of five men and seven women that they had to decide whether the state meets its burden of proof during the trial.

"Whatever you do in your entire life will not be as important as what you do in the next couple of days," Wiley Rutledge told the jury.

Donnie Wright, who described Rodriguez as a friend, testified that he spent the evening of July 30 and early-morning hours of July 31 with Edwin, whom he knows as "Dallas." On July 30, they were drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana with two other friends at an apartment in Noland Village, Wright testified. The four men later went for a drive and stopped at a bar on Jonathan Street, then drove around and ended up on Franklin Street, Wright testified.

Edwin and Demetrius Pierre McDaniels, aka "Meach," got out of the car, which the driver stopped when asked to do so by Edwin, Wright testified.

Wright testified that he did not see a gun in Edwin's hand when Edwin left the car, but he had seen Edwin with a dark revolver earlier that evening.

While he was in the vehicle talking on his phone, Wright heard gunshots, he testified. He saw McDaniels approaching the vehicle at the same time he heard gunshots, and he did not see McDaniels with a gun, Wright testified.

Daynard Johnson later testified that he was driving that night. Johnson was charged as an accessory after the fact and was offered leniency in exchange for testifying.

Johnson testified that he did not initially hear gunshots. Wright asked him if he heard shots, and then both men heard more gunshots, Johnson testified.

Hagerstown Police Department officer Tim Rossiter testified that he collected six shell casings at the scene.

Johnson also testified that he saw McDaniels getting in the car as he heard gunshots. Both Wright and Johnson testified that they drove off without Edwin in the vehicle. Johnson was on parole at the time of the shooting but is back in prison after violating parole, he testified.

Wright is awaiting trial on charges of using a false name and carrying a firearm in Pennsylvania. Police promised him a letter of recommendation to the Pennsylvania prosecutor in exchange for his testimony, he testified.

The state's final witness for the day, a 15-year-old girl, said she "didn't want to remember (the shooting)." She sat with her back to the courtroom as she answered some of Michael's questions.

She testified that she was with Rodriguez that night. She sobbed and refused to identify Rodriguez in a photograph. The girl said she had medical problems that kept her from remembering the shooting, and she said she was smoking marijuana and taking the drug Ecstasy that night.

After she refused to answer a question, she was taken into custody and ordered by Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley to be held overnight.

"Lock me up, I don't care," the girl said.

The trial is scheduled to last three days.

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