- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Charles County jury handed down a guilty verdict Thursday afternoon in the third trial for a 2001 murder.
Attorneys delivered their closing arguments Wednesday morning in the murder trial of Bladensburg resident Jeffrey Edward Allen, 51, who has been convicted twice previously of first-degree murder for the death of Port Tobacco resident John Butler. Two previous convictions were overturned on appeal after defense lawyers cited errors in jury instructions from Circuit Judge Robert C. Nalley.
Allen stabbed Butler 19 times during a fight the two men had and then drove off in Butler’s car.
Allen had gone home with Butler the night before after meeting him in an area of Fifth and H Streets in Washington, D.C., known as “The Stroll” that homosexual men would “cruise” looking for sexual partners. The two had sex before falling asleep the night before. The next morning, Allen woke up unsure of where he was, leading to the confrontation between the two that ultimately turned deadly.
After fleeing the scene in Butler’s car, Allen crashed near the intersection of routes 6 and 425. He was found wandering shirtless and bloody by Wayne Carter of Nanjemoy, who he told he had been in a fight.
Allen also has been convicted previously of second-degree murder and robbery. In light of their pending decision, Nalley told the jury Wednesday to deliberate on the following: The state must prove that Allen robbed Butler, killed him, that the intent to rob Butler was born either before or during the murder and that Butler was killed during the course of the robbery.
Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeremy Widder’s closing statement before the jury was direct and revisited the facts presented during the course of the three-day trial that he described as “sometimes emotional and a little gruesome.” Widder said the evidence proves there was no confrontation between Butler and Allen until Allen made it so.
“All [Butler] did was stand up and say, ‘Don’t take my car,’” Widder said. He reopened the photos of Butler’s mutilated body at the crime scene to refresh the jury’s memory and said the pictures from the home that day show Allen had pursued Butler.
“This did not just happen in one location,” Widder said. “[Allen] chased [Butler] all over the house.”
Widder said Allen “kept stabbing and stabbing until [Butler] had no fight left in him.” By Allen’s own admission, Widder said, Butler cried out for his mother as Allen stabbed him repeatedly.
Widder said Allen’s intent to rob Butler of his car was established when he took the man’s car keys and announced that he would “drive this [expletive] out of here myself” rather than waiting for the ride back to the District that the two had arranged the previous evening.
The evidence, Widder said, “is clearly and frankly overwhelming. ... It points to one verdict: a verdict of guilty.”
Janet Hart, Allen’s defense attorney, maintained that her client never had the intention to rob or steal from Butler. Hart said the setup of Butler’s small home had a wall dividing the kitchen from the living room. On the kitchen side sat Butler’s keys on a stove. Allen had the chance to make a “straight shot” out of the back door of the home without waking Butler and did not take it, Hart said, proving he did not want to start anything.
“If all he wanted was the car, he could have grabbed the keys and been gone in a moment,” Hart said. “He had an intent to get a ride home. ... He was stranded there. He had no money, no telephone ... the only way for Mr. Allen to get home was by way of Mr. Butler.”
Hart also said many of Butler’s wounds were very shallow and said the state did not present a diagram of the wounds on his body. This, Hart said, proved that Allen was “just swinging the knife” rather than holding Butler down and stabbing him. Hart also made reference to the coroner’s discovery of cocaine in Butler’s system during the autopsy, consistent with Allen’s earlier statements that he had witnessed the man smoking crack cocaine when they arrived home the night before.
“The most important stuff was said from the very beginning. Mr. Allen told Mr. Carter he’d been in a fight,” Hart said. “When he called 911, he said, ‘He came at me.’ That was said from the very beginning, and over time his explanation unfolded and became more detailed. You can see that none of this would have happened if Mr. Butler hadn’t tried to stop a robbery that wasn’t happening.”
Hart said Allen’s actions immediately after the incident prove his innocence.
“A guilty man does not say ... that he wants to contact the police,” Hart said. “He goes hitchiking down the road or into the woods. ... Even when it’s not helpful to him, Mr. Allen tells the truth.”
The jury went into deliberation Wednesday afternoon and went home that night without reaching a verdict.
Speaking Thursday afternoon over the phone, Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) said he was pleased by the outcome of the trial.
“I’m gratified that a third jury found [Allen] guilty,” Covington said. “I am confident the appellate courts will not find any reversible error in this third trial. I would add that I really hope this is the last time we have to try this case. This is a tough thing for the victim’s family to go through. It makes it harder to get closure.”