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Attempted first-degree murder trial ends in mistrial

Anthony Caldwell is accused of shooting Bruce Jones, 30, of Hagerstown

Anthony Caldwell is accused of shooting Bruce Jones, 30, of Hagerstown

September 29, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- The trial of a man accused of shooting another man in the chest near Smithsburg in January ended in a mistrial Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court after a juror belatedly revealed she was familiar with the defendant's family.

Anthony Caldwell is accused of shooting Bruce Jones, 30, of Hagerstown, during a robbery disguised as a drug deal early on Jan. 27.

Caldwell, 25, formerly of 27 E. Lee St. in Hagerstown, faces charges of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, robbery and conspiracy.

In declaring the mistrial, Circuit Judge John H. McDowell told jurors before they were dismissed that he hadn't seen such a situation in the 16 years he has been a judge.

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About 50 minutes into the jury's deliberations, one of the jurors sent a note to McDowell saying she recognized Caldwell's mother from a school setting, and that his sister attended that school.

The juror said she did not feel she could be fair and impartial, McDowell said.

By the time McDowell received the note, both alternates chosen Monday during jury selection had been dismissed. McDowell and the attorneys were concerned about calling back either alternate.

One of the alternates had stayed in the courtroom and discussed the case with both defense attorneys. The other had left the courtroom, and there was concern she had been tainted too, McDowell said.

Caldwell's attorneys explained his options to him. Deliberations could have proceeded with the remaining 11 jurors, but only with Caldwell's consent. He told McDowell he did not give his consent.

McDowell granted a defense motion for acquittal on eight of the 17 charges Caldwell faced. If he is tried again, Caldwell can not face those eight charges, most of which were conspiracy, McDowell said.

Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler and Assistant Public Defenders Charles Bailey and Brian Hutchison declined to comment after Tuesday's proceedings.

Caldwell's mother, Oranda Caldwell, and her daughter, Oranda Chukwu, were put on the stand by defense attorneys Tuesday afternoon. They testified that Anthony Caldwell was at his mother's home on the night of Jan. 26 and in the early-morning hours of Jan. 27.

Oranda Caldwell said her son was watching television at 11:15 p.m. on Jan. 26, and that she also saw him at her home at 3 and 5 a.m. on Jan. 27.

A tear slid down Anthony Caldwell's cheek as he listened to his mother testify.

Pauler has said Jones believed he had arranged to buy prescription drugs. Caldwell was selling the drugs, and another man, Louis Gerald Gonzalez, arranged the deal, Pauler told the jury Monday.

Gonzalez drove Jones to the spot where the deal was to happen, and Jones got out of the car on the passenger's side. Someone came toward him, holding up a gun, and within three feet of Jones, pulled the trigger, Pauler said.

Gonzalez, 27, faced the same charges as Caldwell but on Thursday entered an Alford plea to armed robbery. All of the other charges against him were dropped.

Under an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to gain a conviction.

Gonzalez testified Tuesday, saying Caldwell was the shooter. He recognized Caldwell by his voice when the shooter said, "'You know what this is,'" meaning a robbery, Gonzalez testified. The shooter was about four feet from Jones when he shot him, Gonzalez testified.

During Gonzalez's testimony, information emerged about a recent indictment charging him with soliciting murder and intimidating a witness. Under questioning by Bailey, Gonzalez called the charges "bogus."

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