ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals said a Prince George’s County man who shot and killed a friend in a 1995 argument cannot claim that he was acting to protect others nearby.
The ruling Tuesday upheld the first-degree murder and handgun convictions of Samuel Johnson, who shot Dameon Smith on July 31, 1995, and tossed his body into the Potomac River.
Johnson and two other men went that night to act as backups for James Shorts, who planned to fight Smith. Smith was dating Shorts’ sister at the time, and Shorts was upset after hearing that Smith had choked and manhandled her, according to court documents.
Shorts “knew that Dameon wasn’t going to just let James beat him up,” so “we came along just in case,” Johnson testified in his 1997 trial.
“James drove everyone in his truck over to Dameon’s house,” testified Simmi Bellamy, who also went along with Shorts. “They picked up Dameon, purchased some beer, and then drove to Piscataway Park.”
Bellamy said the group was walking through the park when he heard Johnson tell Shorts that “he didn’t like Dameon and that he was going to bust him.”
He also testified that they sat around smoking marijuana and talking before they killed Smith.
Johnson testified that he briefly left the group to go to the bathroom. When he returned he heard Smith curse at Shorts and reach for his waistband.
“As soon as I seen him go for his waist, I pulled out the gun, and shot in his direction,” said Johnson, who said he ran away after firing. As he ran, he said he heard someone shout, “Shoot him again,” then heard another gunshot.
Eventually, Johnson returned to the spot with Bryan Reid, who fired the second shot, according to court records. They hauled the body down to the Potomac and dumped it in.
An autopsy determined that Smith died from gunshot wounds to the neck and the back of his head.
On appeal, Johnson said he shot out of concern for the safety of the others. His attorneys argued that Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Graydon S. McKee III should have told jurors that defense of others could be considered in their deliberations.
But a three-judge panel of the appeals court disagreed. It said Johnson’s attorneys failed to raise the issue before McKee and that, even if they did, the evidence did not support Johnson’s claim that he shot to protect the others.
Johnson is serving a life term for the murder and a concurrent term of 20 years for the handgun charge. His attorneys could not be reached Tuesday to see if the plan to appeal the ruling.