Pr. George's double-murder trial ends with hung jury
For more than two weeks, jurors in the Upper Marlboro courthouse heard testimony and arguments in the state's case against Lawrence T. Covington, who was accused of stabbing two men to death and trying to kill a young woman during a house robbery last spring.
Covington, 35, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
For more than 12 hours over two days, the jury deliberated. In the end, the panel was unable to reach a verdict, and was not close to convicting Covington on any of the counts. According to courthouse sources, the jury split 6-to-6 on one of the murder counts, and 9-to-3 (for conviction) on the second murder charge and the attempted murder count.
Most jurors declined to be interviewed as they left the courthouse late Monday afternoon. Asked why the jury did not convict, one juror, a woman who did not identify herself, said, "Lack of evidence." Asked if the lack of physical evidence was a factor, she juror replied, "There were a lot of factors."
The state's case depended on the testimony of Genea Simms Fountain, 22, who was seriously wounded by survived the March 26 attack. Her husband, Maurice Fountain, 24, and her stepfather, LePrince Hall, 41, were stabbed to death.
Simms Fountain testified that on the morning of the killings, she and her husband went out briefly on an errand. As they walked to their car, Simms Fountain said, her husband exchanged looks with a man who was approaching the door of the home. Simms Fountain said she glanced at the man, whom she said she did not know.
When she and her husband returned to the home, Simms Fountain said, she was surprised by the man, who was dressed in a hoodie and was brandishing a handgun. The man spun her around and put her face-down on the floor in a breakfast nook area near the kitchen, Simms Fountain testified.
Fountain walked in, and the attacker ordered him to the ground, Simms Fountain said. The attacker tied her and her husband's hands with plastic zip ties, the attacker demanded valuables, and Simms Fountain said she told him to take whatever he watned. Fountain told the attacker his wife was pregnant, and pleaded with him not to kill her.
Simms Fountain said the attacker stabbed her husband, and stabbed her in the neck, telling her to "Die." She said she played dead, and when the man left, she crawled up onto a chair and knocked a wall phone off with her head and tried to dial 911 with her face. That didn't work, but she noticed her cellphone -- which has an LCD screen instead of a touchpad -- on the ground. With her hands, she managed to use it to call 911.
Emergency workers arrived and tried to save her husband, but were unable to. Hall's body was found in the basement. He had been stabbed to death. Hall's Cadillac Escalade was stolen -- by the killer, according to prosecutors -- and found in the District.
A couple of weeks after the attack, a police detective showed Simms Fountain a photo array and she picked Covington's picture. Covington was arrested.
In a videotaped interview, Covington said he had nothing to do with the murders. Covington testified in his own defense, and repeated his claims of innocence. He said he knew Hall and got along with him. He said he did not know the other two victims.
In his closing argument, Assistant State's Attorney Mike Glynn said Simms Fountain's testimony proved Covington's guilt. Glynn said Simms Fountain will be forever "haunted" by Covington's face.
In his closing argument, Assistant Public Defender Doug Irminger hammered away at the prosecution's lack of physical evidence -- such as DNA or a fingerprint -- tying Covington to any aspect of the crime.
Irminger also quoted from transcripts of Simms Fountain's testimony, in which she said she described the attacker as being between 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11 and weighing "maybe 250 pounds." At the time of the attack, the 5-foot-9 Covington weighed at least 350 pounds, and possibly close to 400 pounds, Irminger said. When Covington was weighed at the county jail, the scale topped out at its maximum of 350 pounds, according to court testimony.
Prosecutors said they will retry Covington, who remains jailed. The new trial date is scheduled for May 11.
-- Ruben Castaneda
December 16, 2009; 7:57 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Pr. William , Ruben Castaneda , Updates
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