- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The trial for one of the men charged with beating a Washington Post deliveryman Aug. 5, 2012, in Waldorf began Monday afternoon.
Derrick Jamar Thompson, a 21-year-old Waldorf man, was one of five men who was charged with accosting the deliveryman, who is in his 60s and has worked for the company for 20 years, while he was on his normal route in the Ryon Woods development near the Charles County Sheriff’s Office District 3 station.
Thompson is charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, first- and second-degree assault, conspiracy to commit assault, theft and unlawful taking.
One of the other men charged in the attack, 23-year-old Waldorf resident Andrew Lee Washam, will receive a reduced sentence for his involvement in the attack in exchange for his agreement to testify for the state against the other assailants.
In opening statements Monday, Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis J. Granados walked the jury through the state’s version of events on Ryon Court that night. He detailed the three beatings the man suffered. The victim’s wife, present in the courtroom, listened and cried briefly. The man was stripped naked following the first beating, and as he attempted to find help, his attackers returned and kicked and punched him in the head and torso as he was on the ground a second time. They left, and the man sought aid another time but was once again beaten severely, this time temporarily going blind, Granados said.
The man crawled off out of the line of sight of his assailants, and when the coast was clear he crawled to the police station, where he was able to find help.
Two days later, Thompson tried to pawn the victim’s stolen wedding ring at a pawn shop in White Plains, Granados said.
The severity of the beating indicates an unmistakable sort of viciousness, Granados said.
“They were trying to kill him,” Granados said. “This wasn’t about a robbery or a carjacking.”
Granados said Thompson was the first of the group to approach the victim and therefore is responsible for the attack that ensued. Granados showed the jury a picture of the man’s swollen, injured face that resulted from the attack.
Kenneth McPherson, Thompson’s defense attorney, said the story Granados presented had “evolved” with time, along with Washam’s testimony, and instead put the onus on Washam and another man, 21-year-old Kenneth Dionel Brawner.
“I am going to vigorously defend Derrick Thompson, but in doing so please don’t think I don’t consider [the deliveryman] a victim,” McPherson said. “Whatever this is, it is not an attempted murder. ... This was an old-fashioned stupid assault of a man during a robbery.”
McPherson said the victim’s testimony is unreliable, as well, and that he is unable to identify “anything but black men in clothes.”
“[The victim] has every right to be ticked off and frustrated ... but he is obligated to tell the truth,” McPherson said.
The victim was the first to take the stand during the late afternoon Monday. He recounted what began as a normal evening, and how he felt “reasonably safe” until, when walking back to his van he was approached by a man later identified as Thompson and asked what he was doing. The victim told him he was delivering papers and continued walking. That was when he was punched in the back of the head and knocked to the ground, according to his testimony. At the time, the victim said, Thompson was the only other one around, but he soon was joined by the four other men.
“In all my life, I’d never been in a fight,” the victim said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
The victim was pinned to the ground, and the assailants stomped on him and punched him. At one point, the victim said, his wedding ring was stolen from his finger after one of the men threatened to “cut it off” if he didn’t surrender it freely.
“It was just a constant beating. I kept wondering how long it would go on,” the victim said. Eventually, they stripped the man and left him there.
“I just cried out to God and said, ‘Jesus, make them stop beating me,’” the victim said. As he went to see if anyone was home to aid him, the victim said he heard one of the men yell, “Where do you think you’re going?” before they returned to assault him a second time.
After that beating, he felt nauseated and dizzy but pressed on for only a short time before his attackers returned for round three. The third attack temporarily robbed him of his vision.
“I cried out to God again and said, ‘Please, let me disappear,’” the victim said. “I didn’t know if this was a game they were playing with me. I couldn’t take a fourth beating, I just knew that.”
When he finally made it to the police station, the victim was taken to the hospital where he was treated for a broken nose, all manner of cuts and bruises and injuries to his eyes. The group had driven off with his van, and from there they also stole his cellphone and a switchblade knife that the victim carried to cut the plastic cords that bind the newspaper bundles together.
Closing arguments took place Thursday morning, and Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Jeremy Widder took the time to walk the jury back through the testimony heard and the events of that evening.
The testimony alone that Washam gave is sufficient, Widder said, but with all the other witnesses, everything comes into place and corroborates the physical evidence from the night.
“Nobody is asking you to convict Thompson based on just Washam’s testimony. ... That, quite frankly, is just the icing on the cake,” Widder said. “It’s all backed by the physical evidence. ... The state’s attorney’s office doesn’t believe people willy-nilly. We don’t need to parse out who threw which punch. ... They all acted together, and when Thompson moved with them, he was responsible with them.”
The brutality of the attacks, along with the fact that it happened several times rather than just once, indicates that this was attempted murder, Widder said.
“Why are they going at him so hard other than trying to kill him?” Widder asked the jury. “The injuries were serious and protracted. This wasn’t just ‘an old-fashioned stupid assault’ as Mr. McPherson claimed. Thompson was stalking him ... and he kept beating him. I want you guys to get this right. Take your time, and be fair. ... This was a senseless, senseless act of violence with no provocation and no reason. I want you to find the man who did this responsible.”
In his closing, McPherson countered by saying the evidence does not, in fact, support anything but theft and potentially second-degree assault.
“The only thing they proved was that Derrick Thompson pawned the ring,” McPherson said of the state’s case against his client. “We don’t convict him, and subject his liberty to incarceration, when we don’t have an identification consistent with the facts.”
McPherson noted that in surveillance photos from a 7-Eleven convenience store that Thompson and two others visited that night, his shirt appears differently from how the victim and some other witnesses described it. This, he said, proves unreliability.
“They are picking and choosing things and saying that they have physical evidence,” McPherson said. “He was a victim of an assault, a robbery and a theft, not an attempted murder of any kind. We aren’t downplaying that he is a victim, but he is still bound by oath to tell the truth. You shouldn’t let your sympathy for him transform unreliable facts ... into a guilty verdict.”
Jury deliberations continued through Thursday afternoon.