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Closing arguments to be heard Friday in trial of Hagerstown man accused in stabbing death

April 26, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Darrell Hicks
Darrell Hicks

A Washington County Circuit Court jury will hear closing arguments Friday morning in the case of Darrell Hicks, a Hagerstown man accused of fatally stabbing his roommate and leaving the body lying in an apartment closet for days.

Hicks, 54, did not testify, and the defense rested its case Thursday without calling any witnesses.

Judge Daniel P. Dwyer dismissed the jury at about 3:30 p.m., telling its members that they will hear the closing arguments in the case Friday.

Hicks is charged with first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter and carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, according to court records. If convicted of the most serious charge, Hicks could face life in prison.

Hicks was arrested on June 3, 2011, the day Karen Haws found the body of her boyfriend, 45-year-old Darrin Pressman, in a bedroom of an apartment he shared with Hicks at 211 W. Franklin St.

Haws testified on Wednesday she had been unable to contact Pressman from May 30 until she found the body.

The second day of Hicks’ trial began with the defense and prosecution sparring over whether a defense line of questioning opened the door to the jury hearing a suppressed statement by Hicks in which he allegedly confessed to stabbing his roommate to death.

On Wednesday, Assistant Public Defender Loren Villa asked lead Detective Tammy Jurado of the Hagerstown Police Department whether investigators had performed a number of tests, including fingerprinting the crime scene or DNA testing of blood found in the apartment, or had searched Pressman’s phone, bank, debit card and computer records.

Without the jury present, Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson argued Thursday morning that the line of questioning by Villa of Jurado opened the door to the prosecution being allowed to introduce testimony or evidence of Hicks’ statement. Otherwise, he argued, the jury would not know why police did not conduct those tests.

“The answer is we had a confession that matched the findings at the scene,” Wilson said. “We are withholding an important fact from the jury.”

“The state’s argument, in part, is that this case is about the truth,” Villa argued to Dwyer. “Fairness is what this case is about.”

Villa argued that allowing Hicks’ suppressed statement to be introduced would violate his constitutional rights.

“The state is asking the court to provide a cure that will almost certainly result in a first-degree murder conviction for my client,” Villa said.

Dwyer ruled that the line of questioning was proper and denied Wilson’s request that a mistrial be declared.

Before the trial resumed, a juror was replaced with an alternate after he informed the court that he had seen a newscast in which he heard Hicks’ had allegedly confessed to the stabbing.

Jurado returned to the stand late Thursday morning and testified that the additional forensic tests were not conducted because the investigation and interview of witnesses indicated “they would not have been necessary.”

Jurado also testified that there was no evidence of forced entry to Pressman’s bedroom through either of two doors or by the windows.

A door leading to the second-floor hallway of the apartment house was partially blocked by a duffel bag, which would have been pushed out of the way had someone from outside the apartment opened it, she testified.

Bloodstains were found on and around door that connected Pressman’s room to the rest of the apartment, Jurado testified.

Forensic scientist Stacey Wilson of the Western Maryland Regional Crime Laboratory testified that the presumptive tests showed that the stains were blood.

Pressman was stabbed six times in the torso and had 10 cuts and lacerations to his face and scalp, Maryland Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Jack Titus testified.

The state of decomposition indicated that the body could have been lying in the bedroom three to five days, but temperature and other factors could affect the rate of decomposition, he testified.

At the end of testimony, Villa asked Dwyer to grant a judgment of acquittal on all charges, telling him there was “absolutely no evidence” presented by the prosecution that Hicks killed Pressman.

Wilson countered that there was strong circumstantial evidence of Hicks having committed the murder, including the lack of evidence of forced entry and the time the body remained in the apartment.

Dwyer denied the defense motion.

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