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Mistrial declared for man accused of being getaway driver

Jury deadlocked after deliberating for four hours in trial of Darnell Edward Stewart

August 09, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

The man accused of being the getaway driver in the March 8 robbery of the M&T Bank at 930 Dual Highway walked out of Washington County Circuit Court a free man Monday after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer declared a mistrial when the jury in the trial of Darnell Edward Stewart, 50, of 9207 Eldon Drive in Clinton, Md., remained deadlocked after deliberating for about four hours.

The jury foreman told Dwyer that eight jurors believed Stewart was innocent, while four jurors thought he was guilty.

"I'm satisfied with the verdict," Stewart said at the end of the three-day trial. "I couldn't tell which way the jury would go. I threw myself into God's hands."

Assistant State's Attorney Leon Debes said his office hasn't determined whether it will retry Stewart, who faced more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

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Many of the jurors spoke to Debes and defense attorney Ross Hecht after the trial. The jurors said the state presented adequate evidence that Stewart was at the scene, but there wasn't enough proof that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stewart testified Friday that on the morning of March 8, he was urinating on a large wall behind the Weis market near Pangborn Boulevard when he heard sirens and saw a man running toward him from the direction of the bank.

Police arrested the man, Keith Darnell Wilson, 38, of Washington, D.C., on the passenger's side of Stewart's truck, which was parked on Pangborn Boulevard near the wall. Officers testified that Stewart was arrested on the driver's side of the truck.

A third man in the robbery, Leroy Robinson, 59, of Fort Washington, Md., who is Stewart's brother, was arrested nearby in a clump of pine trees.

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Michael argued that it was no coincidence the brothers, who live more than 70 miles from Hagerstown, were in the same place at the time of the robbery.

"It had to be planned," Michael said Monday during closing arguments. "In the 360 degrees the bank robbers could have gone, they made a beeline to where the defendant was parked."

Robinson was convicted in July and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Wilson is expected to enter a plea today in Washington County Circuit Court.

The defense produced two witnesses Friday who confirmed Stewart's story that he was in Hagerstown to help them move furniture on the day of the robbery. Stewart said he was waiting in the Weis parking lot to meet them when he had the urge to urinate. He then drove his truck to Pangborn Boulevard and parallel parked it so he could relieve himself against the wall, he said.

Hecht argued that it didn't make sense for a getaway driver to parallel park his vehicle between two cars if he were preparing to make a hasty escape.

Hecht called two last-minute witnesses to testify Monday. He said Martin and Constance Tierney contacted the defense after reading an account of the trial in Saturday's Herald-Mail.

The Tierneys testified that the newspaper article triggered memories of seeing a man urinating next to the wall on the day of the robbery. The testimony, Hecht said, verified Stewart's story.

But the prosecution argued that the Tierneys, who admitted they didn't hear sirens or see police activity, would have noticed the commotion because Stewart testified that he was urinating when Wilson ran by.

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