ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Friday upheld the assault with intent to murder convictions of a Prince George’s County man who fired into a crowd of teens in a 1996 drive-by shooting.
A three-judge panel rejected Darnell Leon Lanham’s argument that since “there was no testimony that he aimed for particular individuals” in the drive-by, he could not be convicted of assault with intent to murder.
His attorneys tried to argue on appeal that the “record does not support a conclusion that he tried to create a zone of danger with the intent to kill or maim persons within the zone.”
The appeals court said the “senseless drive-by shooting … followed an equally senseless episode known as a `gritting’,” Lanham’s word for a verbal confrontation with a group of youths.
But the victims in the April 22, 1996, incident made no mention of an argument before the shooting began.
Tarrell Lockwood, Tremain Price and Thomas Jackson said they were standing with other teens outside a friend’s house on Castleton Drive in Upper Marlboro when two men drove past in a white Pontiac Grand Am.
They said they heard three gunshots, then watched the driver make a U-turn and head back toward the house, according to court documents. All three said they saw Lanham leaning out of the window, firing toward them.
Alicia Gant, who was in the house looking out, testified that she also saw Lanham leaning out of the car window and firing the shots that ripped through her home.
Lockwood, Price and Jackson were not wounded in the incident. But Shawnte Ambrose, who was in the house with Gant, was hit in the face with a stray bullet.
Lanham led police the next day to a 9mm semiautomatic handgun. Bullets test-fired from the gun matched those recovered from the driveway and front of the house, said court records.
In his testimony and in his statement to the police, Lanham said he fired “three warning shots” from the car but that it was the driver, Jimmy Allen, who shot at the group of boys.
But Prince George’s County Police Detective Steve McVeigh testified that Allen fingered Lanham as the gunman.
A Prince George’s Circuit Court jury convicted Lanham of four counts of assault with intent to murder and charges of reckless endangerment.
The appeals court rejected Lanham’s claim that McVeigh’s testimony was prejudicial and his claim that the jury was not given proper instructions.
It also said there was enough evidence to convict Lanham of the assault charges. Four witnesses saw him shoot into the crowd and three identified Lanham, who was the only one to point the finger at Allen, Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. wrote for the court.