Defense Argues Victims Initiated Fight That Led to Shooting

Baltimore Courthouse

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There are two sides to every story. At least, that was counsel’s argument on Jan. 11 when the jury trial began for attempted homicide defendant Joel Duncan at Baltimore City Circuit Court.

The prosecution and Duncan’s defense attorney, Tyler Mann, stood before Judge Christopher Panos and a 12-person jury on Wednesday morning, each recounting a different side to the story that ended with one man injured by a gunshot. Duncan, 26, is one of four co-defendants involved in the case, all of whom will have their individual trials held consecutively over the next three weeks.

All of the co-defendants are facing multiple counts of attempted murder, assault, and weapons charges, including attempted first and second-degree murder, reckless endangerment, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

During his opening statements, the prosecutor said that Duncan and another co-defendant, Luciano Bruno, 27, were on the third floor of Fells Point’s The Admiral’s Cup restaurant and bar on Jan. 15, 2022, just before 1 a.m. when “a disturbance” broke out between them and three individuals that led to the two friends being kicked out of the bar. Now on the 1700 block of Thames Street, Duncan and Bruno then called their friends, 26-year-old Nathan Presberry and 31-year-old Ronald Maranto, who pick them up in a Toyota RAV4, which Duncan had rented from an Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Duncan and Bruno got into the back seat of the car, which they then parked nearby with the lights off. The prosecutor said Duncan was seen scanning the area with his window down on the rear passenger’s side as the three individuals from the bar walked east and stopped on the corner of Thames Street and S. Broadway.

The three men are seen approaching the car, the prosecutor explained, and video surveillance will show muzzle flashes coming from the driver’s side, followed by one of the victims falling to the ground.

One of the victims was shot in the leg, while the other two victims were uninjured.

“Without [Duncan], none of this would have happened,” the prosecutor said.

“I think we’re watching two different videos,” Mann countered, turning to the jury. “What you’ll see on these videos does not support what [the prosecutor] just said.”

Instead, Mann continued, it was the three alleged victims who were “looking for a fight” at the bar and wanted to keep it going.

“They start hunting my client and his friends,” he said.

Mann argued that the co-defendants’ car was actually parked with its lights on and was banged up by the three alleged victims, in addition to having a window smashed after the three individuals had retrieved weapons, including a gun, from their vehicle.

The defense attorney specifically noted that the gunshots came from the driver’s side of the co-defendants’ car, not the rear passenger’s side where Duncan was seated.

“My client did not fire a gun. My client did not have a gun,” Mann said. “And the state can not put a gun in his hand.”

After opening statements, testimony began with an officer for the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and was expected to continue Wednesday afternoon.

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