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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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Sgt. Steve Hohman, a youthful-looking white guy with short hair, has been a Baltimore Police officer for 11 years, Homicide Division since 2006. He testifies wearing a suit with a badge.

On the morning of the murder, Hohman responded to the scene with his partner, Det. Bealefeld.

Hohman testifies that he interviewed some of the victim's associates and those of José Morales, who were many of the same people. "They kind of ran in the same circles," he says. But "none of the evidence led to Mr. Morales."

Through confidential sources, Hohman learned that McVicker and Bartlett were witnesses. They eventually found their way to his office and told him Smith pulled the trigger.

Given that Long's associates were mostly friends of Morales, Gering asks, did you really expect that they would rat Morales out?

"I didn't know what to expect," Hohman replies. "I expected them to tell me the truth."

The defense witnesses fare poorly, and Gibson makes sure the jurors know that after Smith was arrested, none of them would cooperate with the police investigation. Cheyenne Ward, Smith's sister, claims Smith was home in bed at the time of the shooting, because he was there a half hour later when a neighbor named "Peanut" came calling. Smith could not go in or out of the house without Ward's knowledge, she testifies, "because I'm the only one with the keys."

Peanut, a tall, bald black man whose real name is Daniel Walker, testifies wearing a brown hoodie. His testimony is too quiet to be heard clearly, but he says that he came to Smith's house that morning at 9 a.m. to discuss barbecue sauce. 

"The defendant is sleeping," Gibson asks, "but he needs to be woken up to have a conversation about barbecue sauce?"

The defense's star witness is Claradeinia Koethe, 46, a red-haired white woman who operates a "community service program" three blocks from the murder scene. She says she was with five other people in the park's "pool area," when she heard the shots. "I saw a young black male, real petite, dark skin and a hoodie, running from the scene," she says. "It wasn't Mr. Smith."

But Koethe did not, in fact, witness the murder. "If you didn't see the victim come into the area," Gibson asks, "isn't it also possible that you didn't see the defendant come into the area, too?"

"It's possible," Koethe replies. "I didn't see him for the whole day."

"So you normally see him in the area," Gibson confirms. "But that day you didn't see him at all."

Watching from the spectators' bench, George Smith asks why the detective didn't give the social worker the photo array. "You can see he had a hard-on for Demetrius," Smith says.

But, he is asked, given that this was Demetrius' block, why doesn't he know who did it?

"Oh," George says, "Demetrius doesn't have that kind of influence. If it was me, maybe. But not Demetrius. He's just a kid. In more ways than one."

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