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Jury selection began Tuesday morning in the murder trial of a Great Mills man who authorities allege planned a robbery that led to the shooting death last winter of a St. Inigoes man.

Joseph William Medley III, 30, is the third defendant to stand trial on charges from the Feb. 7 nighttime attack on 37-year-old Robert Lee McDowney Sr. at his home off Beachville Road.

Jurors convicted James Kenneth Clay Jr., 36, at a trial last summer of first-degree felony murder, a burglary-conspiracy offense and a handgun charge in the case, and a judge sentenced Clay to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 26 consecutive years.

Andre Lionel Bowman, 31, of Laurel is seeking a new trial after he also was convicted of first-degree felony murder in the case. A judge recently agreed to a request by Bowman’s lawyer that police look for DNA evidence on any swabs from the investigation that have not already been tested.

St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) contended during the earlier trials that Clay and Bowman got a ride to McDowney’s trailer in a car driven by Oshia M. Lewis, a Hyattsville woman who has not been charged in the case. The prosecutor said that Lewis and her two passengers initially met with Medley outside a Lexington Park convenience store, and that Medley showed them where McDowney lived but did not accompany them to the trailer.

Alisha Marshall, McDowney’s girlfriend, identified Clay during his trial as one of the two armed intruders who came into the residence demanding money, and said that she heard a “pop” noise as the other culprit, wearing a mask, chased her into a bedroom while demanding money. She testified that the masked man found about $700 in a bedroom closet and some crack cocaine, and that after the two intruders left, she went to a neighbor’s home to call for help for her wounded boyfriend. Jurors were told that Bowman’s cellphone was found at the scene.

At a pretrial hearing earlier this month, St. Mary’s Circuit Judge David W. Densford granted a request by Medley’s lawyer that jurors not hear a comment made by Medley during a recorded telephone conversation at the county jail.

Robert Bonsib, Medley’s lawyer, argued that his client’s statement of “I’ll drop a dime” should not be presented for interpretation as an admission of knowledge or involvement in the crime, because of the unclear meaning of the comment and the fact that his client repeatedly said moments earlier, “I didn’t do it.”

Fritz countered that in “anybody’s parlance,” Medley’s statement meant, “I’m going to rat somebody out [and] that’s the only thing that’s going to get me out of here.”

Bonsib rebutted, “It doesn’t define what the act is, and it doesn’t define who you drop the dime on.”

The judge agreed, ruling that jurors would have no clear evidence of the context of the statement.

“We’re not going to let them speculate on something that has not been proven, or is a bridge too far,” Densford said. “They would have to speculate what he means by that. That’s prejudicial. It doesn’t give the jury knowledge about what he knows and what his involvement was.”

Densford did rule that police used an acceptable array of photographs to help identify Medley as a suspect in the case, and the judge denied Bonsib’s request that Medley’s trial be heard in another jurisdiction.

jwharton@somdnews.com