A jury on Friday was asked to weigh the fate of a Rockville teen accused of providing the gun and helping to plan a shooting at the Rockville Metro Station in May.
As testimony came to a close Friday morning, prosecutors and defense attorneys for the defendant, 18-year-old Tavares D. Harris, delivered their closing arguments and reviewed the evidence presented a final time before the jurors were sent into deliberation just before 4 p.m. Testimony so far has revealed that the shooting began with a fight that was supposed to take place at the Rockville Metro between a friend of Harris and a friend of the victim on May 17.
The teens agreed to meet at the station the next day to fight, but before they left, the victim — apparently jokingly — told another friend that he would rob Kevin Nguyen, a friend of Harris’. The victim testified that Harris, who was standing nearby, likely overheard the comment and told Nguyen, prompting the shooting.
Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays recounted for the jury the various tweets between Harris and another youth on May 17, in which the two discuss the shooting a day before it happened. Mays and fellow prosecutor Marybeth Ayres also played clips from YouTube videos posted by Harris and his friends in the weeks before the shooting in which Harris raps while holding a gun they said Harris stole from his neighbor a few weeks before the shooting.
“It’s because of his actions and his weapon that we’re all here today,” Mays said. “From square one, [Harris and Nguyen] willfully intended to kill [the victim]. It’s planned out. ‘Where are we going to do it? Where are we going to get the gun?’”
Mays ended by asking the jurors to recall the eyewitnesses they called earlier in the trial who said that they saw Harris hand Nguyen the gun seconds before Nguyen confronted the victim and opened fire, striking the victim four times and hitting an innocent bystander once.
“The second that the trigger is pulled with bullet No. 1, [Harris] is guilty of attempted murder,” Mays concluded. “He’s guilty. Just as guilty as Kevin Nguyen.”
Like Harris, Nguyen also is charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder along with several other offenses for his alleged role in the May 18 shooting.
Barry Helfand, one of Harris’ attorneys, accused Mays of making inferences from the evidence. Helfand asked the jurors to think about whether they really believed the witnesses presented by the state, several of whom admitted to lying to the police under initial questioning.
Helfand called out one witness in particular, a young man who told prosecutors on the stand that he saw Harris hand Nguyen the gun at the Metro station. The witness testified that he left immediately after seeing the hand-off, but other witnesses place him at the scene during and after the shooting, Helfand told the jurors.
“If I haven’t done anything in this case I’ve proved to your eyes and your hearing that there is no mistake about it; he is a liar,” Helfand said of the state’s witness. “He is a proven liar.”
Helfand also reminded the jury that, despite the fact that police forensic experts were not able to link the DNA recovered from the gun to either Nguyen or Harris, four distinct DNA profiles were lifted from the gun and other teens were seen handling the gun in the YouTube videos.
“This is why the police go after Tavares Harris to the exclusion of all others? Because they saw the gun in his hand in the videos,” Helfand said.