TAMPA - To the prosecution, what happened in a Bartow crack house in October 2006 is clear: two or three people went inside to rob some drug dealers.
One of the robbers, Jermain
e Michael Julian, "had an itch, an itch to kill somebody," Assistant U.S. Attorney James Muench told a jury today. "And he was going to scratch it."
Julian is standing trial in a rare federal death penalty prosecution. If he is convicted of federal murder charges, the jury will be asked to sentence him to death.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Brown told jurors the facts are not as clear as the prosecution paints them. The eyewitnesses, he said, are members of the "Valley Boyz" drug gang and have lied under oath about what happened.
On Oct. 19, 2006, Julian, David Emanul Jones and at least one other person robbed a drug house known as "The Carter" at 1735 Martin Luther King Blvd., Muench said.
Inside were Carlton Potts, Prayer Hamilton and Tyrone Williams.
The armed intruders beat the three and forced them onto the floor as they ransacked the house looking for money and drugs, prosecutors said. Julian, known as "Kid," said he wanted to kill or burn someone.
As the victims pleaded for their lives, Julian pointed a pistol at Williams and pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. He chambered another bullet and pointed the gun at Potts, Muench said. He pulled the trigger and a bullet exploded through Potts' chest, killing him before it lodged in the floor.
Julian then pointed the gun toward the victims and pulled the trigger. Twice more, the gun jammed, Muench said.
Officials don't remember the last time, if ever, federal prosecutors have sought the death penalty in Tampa – only three people have been executed nationwide since the federal death penalty was enacted in 1988. Legal experts are stumped as to why Julian is not being prosecuted in state court.
Muench implied in his opening statement that there were problems with the local investigation. He told jurors that Bartow is a sleepy town and that its police department is so small that this was the local detective's second murder case.
Muench said police neglected to record their first interview with Julian, although they had him read and sign their notes. The FBI later recorded an interview with Julian.
Julian was arrested a month after the slaying. He told investigators someone named "Bling" told him "The Carter" had marijuana and $50,000 in cash, according to court documents. He said he contacted Jones and two others to help him rob the house or "hit a lick."
Julian said he saw someone fire a shot toward Jones during the robbery so he fired his weapon. He said he took 240 bags of cocaine and $6,500 from the house.
Jones pleaded guilty to federal robbery, firearms and drug charges, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Brown told jurors they will have trouble finding the prosecution proved its case against Julian beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the shooting, Brown said, Williams fled the house and then returned with a pickup truck before police came. Witnesses saw people using the pickup to take items from the house.
Brown showed jurors photos of the three victims posing with guns, money and cell phones – the trademarks of drug dealers. He said Potts had tattoos on his forearms, one saying "Valley" and the other "Boyz."
Muench told jurors Hamilton wasn't involved in drugs but hung around "The Carter" with his older brother, who was involved in drugs.
Brown showed jurors pictures of Hamilton posing with the "Valley Boyz." He also showed photos from Hamilton's MySpace pages that Brown said proved his involvement in drugs.
Potts was known to carry a .38-caliber handgun and was often seen cleaning it, Brown said. In addition to bullets and bullet casings from the 9mm gun used to kill Potts, there was a fresh bullet hole from a .38 near where the shooter had been standing.
The .38 was not found in the house that night, Brown said.
The trial continues Wednesday.
(Source : www.msnbc.msn.com)