Defense Calls Evidence ‘Junk Science’ During Closing Arguments in 2018 Murder Trial

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A murder trial for two co-defendants concluded on Sept. 30 when the assistant state prosecutor and defense attorneys presented passionate arguments to the jury, describing two drastically different accounts of the night the crime took place. 

The prosecutor told the jury it was not a mere coincidence that Terrance Belton and his co-defendant Rawnes Gibbs, both 23, were the last two individuals known to have contact with 21-year-old Aaron Long before he was murdered in 2018.

She alleged that Belton and Gibbs were “premeditated and deliberate” when they drove Long to his death on the night of Oct. 17, before shooting him nine times on the 4000 block of Towanda Avenue on the tracks of a secluded railroad.  

She told the jury that Belton had knowledge of the area, which she said he confirmed to Baltimore police detectives. The gun recovered in his home two months after the crime was later determined to be the murder weapon, according to analysis from a witness who was a firearms expert.

The prosecutor reminded the jury that cell tower evidence placed Gibbs’ phone near the area of the crime at the time of the incident and that he lied to police about going to work in Laurel that day.

“We know that they were together,” she stated. “These two gentlemen lured Aaron Long to the cross tracks. This was planned, premeditated, and deliberate.” 

Belton and Gibbs are both charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and using a firearm to commit a felony violent crime. Gibbs faces additional charges of having a handgun on his person and having a handgun in a vehicle on a public road. 

“The state’s case is entirely circumstantial,” said Belton’s defense attorney Amy Stone during her rebuttal. She relayed to the jury that the prosecution had no video evidence, DNA evidence, witnesses, or motive to prove her client or his co-defendant were guilty. 

Stone informed the jury that Belton had purchased the handgun in early December, after the murder had occurred. According to defense counsel, the firearms expert failed to provide a thorough report, documenting his comparison between cartridge casings found at the scene and the gun found in Belton’s home. 

Defense counsel asserted that the defendants were friends with the victim, whom they referred to as “Little A.” She continued by saying the defendants did see the victim until 3:30 p.m., when they picked him up from the Mondawmin Mall. Stone showed Instagram messages between Belton and Long to prove the defendants did not lie about seeing him that day and fully cooperated with the police detectives when they were interviewed in January of 2019.

Bryan Mobley, Gibbs’ attorney stated that investigators failed to test other items found at the scene and there was no DNA from his client, who had no criminal history, found on the alleged murder weapon.  

Mobley added that surveillance footage from the night of the murder contradicts the testimony of the cell tower expert and neither defendant was seen on camera any time that night near the train tracks.

He stated multiple times that the prosecution was trying to use “junk science” to place Gibbs at the crime scene, echoing Stone’s claims that the methodology of the expert witnesses did not follow a clear scientific method and lacked proper oversight and documentation. 

“The state is asking you to do what none of their witnesses could do and that is to say that these two gentlemen shot that young man,” Mobley said. “Where’s the proof? There is none.” 

The prosecution ended proceedings by telling the jury, “circumstances are just facts. Lack of motive does not negate the facts.”

Deliberations began in the afternoon after Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Gregory Sampson gave his final instructions to the jury. Both sides are awaiting the verdict. 

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