ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Tuesday upheld the attempted-murder conviction of a Baltimore man who opened fire on three men whose double-parked car was blocking his way.
Dion Donta Jones’ 1996 shooting spree left one of the men paralyzed from the neck down.
Jones’ attorneys said his conviction should be reversed because prosecutors were unfairly allowed to compare the shooting spree with other “horrible” crimes, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
But a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals disagreed, saying attorneys have “broad discretion in the scope of their closing arguments.
“The prosecutor was merely focusing on the senseless nature of (this) offense by providing illustrations of other similar reasonless crimes,” Judge Raymond G. Thieme wrote.
The case stemmed from a January 1996 incident, when George Diggs, Arthur Cole and Pierre Cole stopped their car in the middle of North Fremont Avenue in Baltimore while Diggs spoke to a friend through an apartment window.
Jones stopped his car about 10 feet away, threatened to shoot the men and left. He returned on foot five minutes later and fired six to eight shots, hitting Diggs in the neck as the three drove away. Diggs was paralyzed in the shooting.
The three men said they had never met Jones before. They picked him out of police photographs, with Diggs forced to identify Jones by blinking, once for yes, twice for no.
“He had no reason to shoot,” Pierre Cole told police. “I think it was because George was in the street and (Jones) wanted to be bad.”
In court records, Jones admitted he was annoyed that the men were blocking the road, but he denied shooting them.
In his closing argument, Assistant State’s Attorney William Mathis told a Baltimore Circuit Court jury, “We are ripe with crime, with crime and violence, senseless kinds of killings.
“Sometimes there are some definite explanations and then there are some that are just totally senseless,” he said.
The jury convicted Jones, 22, of attempted murder, assault and weapons charges. He was sentenced to 70 years in prison.
But Jones’ public defenders argued on appeal that Mathis’ statements “put the jury in the position of being pressured by `crime’ to resolve any doubt in favor of the state.
“There was one issue in this case — was (Jones) the shooter?” they wrote. “The suggestion that crime in general and specific horrible crimes should be considered, was improper.”
They said prosecutors also improperly referred to a prior arrest for which Jones was not convicted. They could not be reached for comment Tuesday on the ruling by the intermediate appeals court, or to say if they plan to appeal it.