‘Guns Transfer Hands in Baltimore City Like a Hot Potato,’ Defense Argues in Killing of Safe Streets Leader

Baltimore Courthouse

Defense counsel for a 29-year-old Baltimore man accused of killing Safe Streets leader Dante Barksdale last year emphasized his argument to the jury on May 24 that the assistant state’s attorney’s “shoddy work” falls short of proving the defendant’s guilt.

The jury trial of Baltimore resident Garrick Powell kicked off Tuesday morning with opening statements before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Jennifer B. Schiffer, nearly a year after his arrest.

Powell is on trial for allegedly shooting Barksdale in the head on the 200 block of Douglas Court on Jan. 17, 2021.

Barksdale was a member of the city’s violence prevention program, Safe Streets.

On the first day of trial, defense attorney John Cox informed the jury that the prosecution must prove Powell’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while he expressed his own doubts in the prosecution’s argument.

“Our system is designed so that it is better to let go of 10 people who maybe did something wrong than to let go of one person who did not do something wrong,” Cox said.

The defense attorney began breaking down pieces of evidence the prosecution planned to use in its case, including the alleged firearm, video surveillance footage of his client, and cellular data placing Powell in the vicinity of the incident on the day of the shooting.

Cox argued that the prosecution not only recovered the firearm allegedly used to kill Barksdale, but also recovered DNA from the weapon. However, he explained, the DNA wasn’t tested.

Additionally, Cox said that there were three other individuals whom the prosecution did not consider as a suspect and that the cellular analysis only places the cell phone within a radius of a couple of miles well before the shooting.

“Guns transfer hands in Baltimore City like a hot potato,” Cox said.

The prosecution only intends to show the jury video of a Baltimore Police Department officer’s attempt to resuscitate Barksdale to elicit emotion, Cox added.

During his opening statements, the prosecution painted a picture for the jury that it was cold and sunny with “a bone-chilling wind” on the day Barksdale went to the Douglas Homes neighborhood and was shot dead within 10 minutes of his arrival. It was a chaotic scene as everyone rushed into the courtyard to see what happened.

The police later identified the alleged shooter as Powell, who the prosector said was stopped by Anne Arundel County Police on Feb. 3, 2021, and found with the alleged firearm used in the shooting.

About three months later, Powell was arrested at a house in the 400 block of North Ellwood Avenue in connection to the shooting.

The prosecution concluded that there was enough sufficient evidence for the jury to find Powell guilty, and the trial proceeded Tuesday morning with testimony from the first-responding officer.