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Anatomy of a Murder Trial

In Robert Long's death, "all the pieces fit together." A few are still missing.

Photographs By Michelle Gienow
Robert Long's daughter Hannah holds his picture

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 2/24/2010

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The prosecution's other experts fare better than Faber, but offer no information about who killed Long. The coroner, for example, says Long died with both cocaine and heroin in his bloodstream. She confirms that he had "stippling"--gunpowder burns--near each bullet wound, indicating he was shot both times at very close range. But she doesn't know which of the two shots came first, or how he fell. The fingerprint and DNA experts testify that they got nothing, and that nothing is what they usually get.

The first witness to tell the jury that Smith killed Long is Michelle McVicker. Extremely hard of hearing and speaking very loudly with a speech impediment, she tells several different versions of the event, layering in vagueness not only her reason for being in the neighborhood (someone told her a cousin stayed there somewhere; she was heading to her methadone program at Maryland Avenue and 21st Street--miles away) but also about the basic fact of the shooting itself.

"I seen the suspect and the victim talking, walking toward the track," McVicker, a petite blonde with hoop earrings, testifies. "That's when it happened."

Although McVicker picked Smith from a photo array, she is vague about the location of the murder, pointing out different spots on an aerial photograph used by both the defense and prosecution. She does not know if she heard two shots, or three. She says she saw Long running before he was shot.

"Permission to lead the witness," Gibson asks. (Doory denies it).

"Previously, did you say he ran after he got shot," Gibson asks, flipping through her testimony at a prior hearing.

"The first time I came here I was really nervous," McVicker says. "I meant to say before."

All of the forensic evidence indicates that Long was not running before he was shot. He was shot in the face at point-blank range, and then, shot again at point-blank in the back of the head--or vice-versa. Gering does not impeach McVicker's testimony.

During a bench conference, as the lawyers and Smith talk to Doory, Smith's supporters are laughing. Even Long's sister shook her head as McVicker testified.

Gibson calls Bartlett to the stand, now in front of the jury for the first time.

He was standing "at the pay phone at Stricker and Ramsey," he says, trying to "score more heroin," when he saw Long and Smith come through the alley from the 400 block of Parrish Street. Bartlett watched as Michi walked Long out through Traci Atkins Park to a hole in the fence near the train tracks.

Although his testimony is consistent, Bartlett's language is a strange mixture of Baltimorese and cop-speak: "I seen the victim reach into his jacket and produce a handgun," he says, correcting it afterward to "the defendant."

Bartlett says he had known Long since kindergarten. He says he has known Smith for two years, having bought heroin from him and sold heroin for him.

Bartlett knows intimately Demetrius Smith's special brand of heroin, he testifies: "He packaged it. He put a piece of scotch tape around the middle of each pill." Smith did this to keep the workers out of the stuff, Bartlett continues. The tape was labor-intensive to apply, and just enough trouble to remove and replace that it kept his hoppers from tapping the product. "You really don't have a lot of time when you're pitching," Bartlett testifies. Smith marketed his heroin under the name "Buck Naked."

He says Long had come to his door that very morning, between 5 and 6 a.m., with "Junior" and a man named Troy Lucas. "Basically, I sell crack cocaine," Bartlett says. "They were trying to trade heroin for crack cocaine."

Bartlett traded "five dimes" of Long's stash for "five dimes" of his crack. Then, "everyone in the house got well," meaning they were no longer dope sick. "Heroin makes me normal, because I'm an addict," Bartlett says. "I been using so long." Bartlett says he's a 20-year addict who spent between $100 and $200 each day on heroin, but that he's been on methadone for the past three months.

Long looked preoccupied as Smith walked him into the park a few hours later. All the trees were bare, Bartlett says, allowing him to see clearly. "I heard a pop and seen a flash--right there, at that fence. I took off." He says the two were facing each other when Smith first pulled the trigger.

Bartlett didn't dial 911. "At the time, I had an outstanding warrant for violation of probation. My second violation. So at the time, I really didn't want to see no police," he testifies. "I knew I'd get locked up."

On May 8, 2008, Bartlett  was arrested on the warrant. "So I asked to see the detectives. Sergeant [Steve] Hohman. I forget the other." Charles Bealefeld is his name, as it turns out; he does not testify.

Bartlett told Hohman the killer's street name was Michi and described him--5-foot-4, medium complexion, a couple of pock marks, wavy hair, approximately 185 pounds. He picked Smith from a photo array and signed a statement, now entered into evidence as "State's number 12."

Although Gering will insist that Bartlett traded this information for lenient treatment on his probation case, he was sent back to jail for 14 months.

Gering suggests to the jury that the police forced Bartlett to finger Smith in order to receive treatment for his broken arm, smashed the day before his arrest by someone--no one ever asks who--wielding a golf club. Bartlett and Hohman, the detective, both say he got medical assistance soon enough.

Gering notes that in his initial statement to police, Bartlett said Long had both heroin and crack. "You lied to the detectives about having crack," she says.

"Yes," Bartlett replies. "I didn't need another charge."

"When you need to, you lie to help yourself, right?"

"I used to," Bartlett acknowledges. "I'm trying to get my life together."

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