Manslaughter Defendant Granted Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, Found Guilty of Assault

Baltimore Courthouse

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“If you are the perpetrator, why are you sitting around a hospital full of cops?”

Defense attorney Latoya Francis-Williams posed this question for a jury on March 16 during closing arguments in the trial of defendant Rodney Harris Jr.

Harris was initially charged with manslaughter for allegedly beating his pregnant girlfriend, which led to the death of their unborn child on April 4, 2018. However, during the trial, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Jones granted defense counsel’s motion for judgment of acquittal for the manslaughter charge on March 15—a motion that was denied for the first and second-degree assault charges.

The defendant was later found not guilty of first-degree assault but guilty of second-degree assault on March 17, for which he is scheduled to be sentenced on July 11.

During her closing argument on Thursday, Francis-Williams questioned the prosecution’s argument that Harris was upset with his girlfriend for allegedly giving him an STD. Over the course of the trial, the prosecution accused Harris of beating his girlfriend with his fists, kicking her in the stomach while wearing Timberland boots, pouring bleach on her, and attempting to drown her.

Francis-Williams told jurors that “a rookie cop” who was on the scene allegedly overheard a neighbor say Harris beat his girlfriend; however, no other individuals reported this, nor was it investigated. Rather, she continued, it was Harris who “attempted to save” his girlfriend by taking her to the hospital.

“[The victim] said they were in love,” Francis-Williams said. “They even took a bath that night.”

“The victim did nothing wrong, but fall in love with him and wanting to have his baby,” the prosecutor said earlier in the proceeding. “She’s not a monster. She did nothing to deserve this.”

The prosecutor also said that Harris wrote a letter to his girlfriend that told her what to tell Baltimore Police to prevent him from going to jail.

“Mr. Harris beat her to a pulp,” the prosecutor concluded. “[The victim] told officers at the hospital that Harris beat her. There is plenty of evidence that shows what happened.”

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