BALTIMORE — The defense attorney for the man standing trial for the 1993 murder of a Bangor man said during opening arguments Wednesday that his client would take the witness stand and identify the real killer.
The attorney for 24-year-old James Langhorne said his client was looking to buy drugs and was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and that while he witnessed the murder of Laurence Jones Jr., he did not participate in it.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said Langhorne admitted the killing to his girlfriend and a fellow prison inmate.
Langhorne’s attorney, Sam Brave, said he plans to present evidence that he claims shows that political pressure put on the Baltimore Police Department to solve the highly publicized case resulted in a “rush to judgment” and prompted the police to arrest his client in order to close the case.
Jones, 24, was shot at 3 a.m. Nov. 20, 1993. as he returned home after an evening spent at bars in the trendy Fells Point neighborhood, just blocks away from his dilapidated apartment building directly across the street from the violence-plagued neighborhood called the “Perkins Projects.”
It took police three years to make an arrest, during which time Jones’ parents wrote letters to Maine’s Washington delegation, President Clinton, and the governor and attorney general of Maryland urging additional work be done on the case.
Brave told jurors it was that pressure which prompted police to arrest an innocent man.
Most of the day was taken up with selecting the 12-member jury and three alternates. Both sides got in opening arguments.
Later, outside the courtroom, Brave said the real killer is a drug addict known only as “Wink.”
Langhorne contends that he and Woodard each had serious drug habits. He was out in the early morning hours looking for a fix for his girlfriend when he ran into Wink on Bank Street, not far from Jones’ apartment.
“The two were acquainted and they were both searching for drugs,” Brave said, outside the courtroom. “Wink was getting jittery because he was coming down from the drugs and needed a fix, and they were unable to find anyone to buy from.”
Brave said Jones happened to walk by the two, and “to my client’s horror Wink pulled out a gun, pointed it at Jones and said, `Give it up.’ My client heard the shot, and got scared and ran.”
Another man in the area who was familiar with Langhorne by sight, but not by name, claims to have seen Langhorne and another man run through a courtyard in the Perkins Projects after the shot was fired.
Langhorne allegedly ran home and put away a gun his attorney admits his client carried.
Prosecutors told jurors that Langhorne admitted to his girlfriend that he “robbed a guy with my friend and we shot him” and proceeded to show her some of the items that were stolen from Jones.
Outside the courtroom, Brave claimed Langhorne told his girlfriend that he had just seen a shooting and was afraid the police would be looking for him. Brave said Langhorne changed his clothes and returned to the scene to check on Jones’ condition.
He said his client then saw again the man who witnessed him running away from the scene and stopped to tell him that he didn’t do it.
That man, William Rice, testified to that effect during preliminary hearings Tuesday.
While it has been strongly suspected that another man was involved in the killing, prosecutors and police have said little about the second suspect. Brave claimed that is because they have been unable to find the man known as Wink and have settled on his client.
Langhorne was arrested in 1996, after a fellow prison inmate called police and said Langhorne had described Jones’ murder to him. Armed with a name, police revisited Rice, the man who saw the men running from the scene. Rice identified Langhorne from a photo lineup.
Brave said outside the courtroom that his client did not decide to reveal the truth about the matter until he was confident that police and prosecutors had evidence that placed him at the scene.
“His loyalty to Wink quickly came to an end then,” Brave said.
Jones, a Bangor High School and University of Maine graduate, moved to Baltimore in August 1993. He was scheduled to have his final interview at Johns Hopkins University, where he hoped to continue his psychology education, just a few days after he was shot.
His mother, her sister, nephew and a family friend are in Baltimore for the trial. Yong Cha Jones’ grief makes it difficult for her to hide her emotions. She sat in the enormous, marble-walled courtroom, clasping a diamond locket with her son’s picture inside.
As she attempted to control her emotions, she grasped the locket so tightly that it cut into her hands, and she bit her lip until it bled.
The judge presiding over the case warned Jones on Wednesday that she would need to control herself in front of the jury or she could risk causing the case to be declared a mistrial.
During preliminary hearings Tuesday, Jones collapsed as she tried to make her way out of the courtroom. On Wednesday, after the judge’s warnings, she listened to a few minutes of the opening statements before leaving the room.
Langhorne, a heavy-set black man, was dressed in a white dress shirt and tie and black pants Wednesday. The jury, an even mix of men and women, is all black except for one white woman. Maryland has the death penalty, but it is rarely invoked.
Prosecutors pleaded for justice Wednesday during opening statements.
Noting that Laurence Jones’ murder was the 309th homicide in the city of Baltimore in 1993, Assistant State’s Attorney Ilene Nathan said, “Make [case number] 93-309 more than just a statistic. Find justice for Laurence Jones.”