ANNAPOLIS – In a unanimous vote, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals Tuesday upheld the murder conviction of a man who claimed that the victim’s dying words pointed to his innocence.
In June 1994, a Prince George’s County jury convicted Gemini Santee Vaughn in the shooting of Reginald Inman at the Capitol Heights Metro Station. Vaughn was sentenced to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder and five years for using a handgun to commit a crime.
The shooting occurred shortly after noon on Nov. 5, 1993 as both men left the station on the elevator. According to a defense brief, an argument erupted between the two and Vaughn drew a .357 caliber handgun and shot the victim once in the stomach. He died several hours later.
During the trial, prosecutors produced statements from two eyewitnesses that identified Vaughn as the shooter, although one subsequently recanted, saying that he had felt pressured by police.
The court ruled that the victim’s words to the first policeman on the scene — that he did not know who shot him — were properly excluded from the trial as hearsay evidence.
The judges also affirmed the trial court’s judgment that a prosecutor’s closing statements did not prejudice the jury or warrant a mistrial.
In their appeal, defense lawyers argued that the prosecutor improperly referred to Vaughn as the “devil” and a “sociopath,” and that he improperly “appealed to the jury’s sense of duty to the community” to obtain a conviction.
But the appellate judges wrote that the term “sociopath” was consistent with the prosecutor’s portrayal of the “brazen” manner in which the defendant, in “the full glare of people,” shot the victim and ran away.
Lawyers in the case were not available for comment. -30-