La Plata, MD – It took longer to pick a jury in the first-degree murder trial of Deavan Quindel Jefferson, 20, for the shooting death of 19-year-old Ruell Hicks behind the AMC movie theater at Mall Circle in Waldorf last October than it took for the Charles County Circuit Court jury to render a verdict.
Barely an hour after the jury got the case Friday, May 5, they informed Judge Erik Nyce they had reached a decision.
Jefferson was found guilty of second-degree murder and three charges of illegally possessing a firearm used in the commission of a felony. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder.
Charles County Assistant States Attorney Constance Kopelman tried her hardest to get the jury to nibble on the concept that the murder was premeditated, that Jefferson lured the victim “into the shadows” with the intention of murdering him.
Kopelman’s closing went on for some time, causing Assistant Public Defender Matt Connell to object three separate times that the prosecutor was repeating the same thing over and over. The judge finally relented and asked Kopelman if she was getting close to finishing.
“The reason I am repeating the same thing over and over to you is because it’s important,” she told the jury.
There was no doubt that Jefferson shot Hicks in the head after a drug deal went south behind the movie theater and, the defendant claimed, the victim swung at him. That became evident during an interview with Charles County Sheriff Office detectives John Long and John Elliott the night of the shooting, played during the trial and again at closing, in which he told them that although he and Hicks had an altercation in the past, “we were all right.” But he added, he said even though he had arranged to purchase marijuana from Hicks that he was wary. “I know they do that jack bulls—,” he told the investigators. “I know for a fact he has committed armed robbery more than once.”
“Did he say anything?” Elliott is heard asking.
“I didn’t even wait to hear what he had to say,” Jefferson said. “After he swung at me…”
“Where’d you shoot him?” Elliott asked.
“I shot him in his f—— head,” the defendant said, almost shouting.
Jefferson also told detectives he knew one of the three men had a gun, but only two knives were found.
Kopelman said Jefferson at first tried to pin the murder on someone else.
“Who is robbing who here?” she asked. “The defendant’s story is all over the place.”
“Ruell Hicks set up a drug deal and agreed to sell drugs he didn’t even have,” Connell said in closing. “Hicks and his friend, Darius Wilson and Jared Ryce, they were going to commit an armed robbery. Wilson testified right in this courtroom, ‘Yes, we were going to rob the man who shot Ruell.’ My client told police he thought they were armed and they were,” he said, holding up the two knives found in a backpack with the two men.
Connell also said Hicks’ accomplices ransacked his body after he was shot, taking his iphone, belt and sneakers. “DJ [Jefferson] told police, this was a robbery that was reversed,” Connell told the jury.
His argument proved fruitful from the aspect that he was able to dissuade the jury from premeditation, but Jefferson still faces serious jail time for the second-degree murder charge and the illegal use of a firearm in a felony charge.
“There are no winners in a case like this,” Connell said after the verdict.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 10.
Originally posted on The BayNet: