During the ongoing retrial of a 28-year-old Baltimore man accused of murder, his ex-girlfriend refused to answer a specific question which almost made Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge John A. Howard place her in contempt on May 5.
Jaquan Terrell Burks is charged with first and second-degree murder, use of a firearm during a violent crime, possession of a firearm with a felony conviction, and having a a handgun on his person in connection to an incident on July 9, 2018.
The defendant’s ex-girlfriend testified that she knew the victim, Emanuel Cruz, as a frequent customer in Haven’s Place, a strip club in Southeast Baltimore. The ex-girlfriend used to work as a dancer in the establishment. Prior to the incident she knew Cruz for five years under the nickname “C”.
Burks’ ex-girlfriend also said she contacted the defendant informing him that Cruz was at the bar via text message. She added that when Burks’ arrived at the bar, he was alone and he told her to leave.
She said she did not see Cruz and Burks’ talking, but she did see an altercation between the two. She said she did not know how it started.
When asked to describe what she saw during the altercation, the witness refused which almost resulted in her being found in contempt of court. After almost being put in jail again, the witness decided to cooperate.
Burks’ ex-girlfriend said she saw gunfire but never actually saw the gun. She continued with saying Burks’ showed her the gun twice, once while in the club’s dressing room and also at their home.
The prosecutor presented video footage of the witness’ statement to the police. Following the incident, Burks’s ex-girlfriend met with detectives but was not truthful with them at the time. She also added she was not truthful simply because she did not want to be.
In July 2018, Burks’s ex-girlfriend told detectives, during her interview, that she did not remember much, saying she was very intoxicated that night.
Initially, she was charged with accessory after the fact of murder but quickly accepted a plea of 10 years, suspending all but time served, in regards to the shooting.
The witness had served about six months of incarceration.
“Your plea was for you to be released from prison pertaining to this case,” said Burks’s defense attorney, Bradley Shepherd, during his cross examination. If found in violation of the plea, Burk’s ex would face approximately nine and a half years of incarceration.
Shepherd questioned if the witness discussed the facts of the case with the defendant’s cousin, she responded that she never talked to her about it. She also said she spoke to the defendant’s cousin about Burks’s but not about the victim or her involvement in the case.
The primary detective informed the court that he first observed bloody bandages, seven 9mm cartridge casings and the victim’s broken glasses at the crime scene. He said he also requested surveillance video footage from a Dollar Store nearby, but there were no cameras on the surrounding buildings pointing towards the actual crime scene.
The detective said he instructed the technician on scene to recover cups and bottles for fingerprints from within the club.
During the investigation, the homicide unit received a phone call from another witness who provided a description of the shooter. The witness also identified the defendant as the shooter along with another witness, the owner of the club.
Shepherd inquired about DNA found on scene, but the detective said there was no DNA requested for the items found at the scene nor was DNA requested from the shell casings.
The detective said police did not recover Burks’s phone, nor was any steps taken to retrieve the deleted text messages from the defendant’s ex-girlfriend phone. The victim’s shirt was never collected to determine close range fire, said the detective.
There was no blood found inside the Burks’s ex-girlfriend’s car, no weapon or firearm, and no bullets in the home.
Prior to the incident, the victim, Emanuel Cruz, had arguments with three different people. Shepherd inquired if police investigated them.
In response, the detective noted that he knew about the three arguments but did not try to identify those three individuals.
During the rebuttal, the prosecutor questioned if there was a description of the three men. The detective said the men were tall, but there were no other distinctive features.
Next, the prosecutor presented video footage of one of the witnesses’ testimonies from Burks’s initial trial. According to the witness, the victim was struck in the back of the head and shot afterwards by the defendant.
He said he heard 2-3 shots, then Cruz hit the ground. The witness described the shooter as 6’3, mixed race, between 280-300 pounds.
According to the prosecutor, Burks’s was previously convicted of possession of a firearm with a felony conviction, which prohibited him from carrying a weapon.
Burks’s trial is scheduled to continue on May 6.