Jury Deliberates Murder of Teen Caught in Crossfire

Baltimore Courthouse

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On Nov. 3, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Charles H. Dorsey III presided over closing arguments in the trial of a 36-year-old homicide defendant. 

Tavon Battle is charged with first-degree murder, firearm use in a felony violent crime, attempted first-degree murder, four counts of firearm possession with a felony conviction and having a handgun on his person in connection to the Nov. 7, 2022, death of 13-year-old Kelsey Washington on the 1400 block of East Fayette Street.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed that Washington was killed unintentionally by a stray bullet, but under the doctrine of “transferred intent,” the prosecution said Battle still fired the fatal shot and must be held accountable. The person the prosecution says was the actual target was uninjured.

In her closing argument, the prosecutor methodically went through snippets of surveillance camera footage from Baltimore Police Department (BPD) CityWatch cameras and businesses near the crime scene on the 1400 block of East Fayette Street, tracing the path of the suspect as he allegedly rode his white bicycle to the crime scene and fled on foot after the shooting.

She also showed footage from the body-worn cameras of Baltimore Police Department (BPD) first responders illustrating the “chaotic” aftermath of the shooting.

In an effort to identify a suspect, police circulated surveillance photos through the media. But Battle was ultimately identified by a deputy U.S. Marshal, his parole and probation officer and a correctional officer from the jail where Battle served time a year before the incident.

Defense attorney Jason Silverstein began by admitting to the jurors that his client had been convicted and in jail prior to his arrest in this case, which is why he was charged with firearm possession with a felony conviction. But he asked them to not hold that against Battle as he continued to have the presumption of innocence.

Silverstein also said that BPD’s efforts ended as soon as Battle was identified, saying it was “a four-day investigation that did almost nothing,” and that they geared their investigation toward someone with a record.

He said he found it suspicious that though the suspect’s photo had been circulating in the media and online for days, no one from the community called in and identified him. He also said some of the surveillance photos had “clearly [been] manipulated” and enhanced, yet the person’s hands didn’t have any tattoos. Battle has tattoos all over his hands and face. 

Silverstein acknowledged his theory was conspiratorial, but said of the evidence presented against his client, “It doesn’t smell right.”

Of particular concern, said Silverstein, is the lack of testimony from the scene, where he counted dozens of potential witnesses. Additionally, investigators didn’t recover a firearm, so the case hinged on the surveillance footage and law enforcement testimony. 

And though the prosecution is not required to show a defendant’s motive, Silverstein remarked that there was no evidence that Battle and the attempted murder victim even knew each other, let alone had a basis to shoot at each other.

In her rebuttal, the prosecutor called the defense’s closing argument, “45 minutes of distraction” and dismissed his “conspiracy theories.”

The jurors will begin deliberations this afternoon. 

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