Judge Excludes Knife From Case, Trial Set to Begin for Homicide  

During a Sept. 6 hearing, D.C. Superior Court Judge Rainey Brandt responded to the defense’s motions in a 2018 homicide case. 

Edward Brown, 61, was charged with the robbery of a senior citizen while armed, as well as two counts of first-degree murder of 77-year-old Michael Mahoney on Feb. 5, 2018.

Mahoney was found dead in his apartment, lying in a large pool of blood. 

 The prosecution’s lead detective notified the court that he was exposed to COVID-19 a couple of days before the hearing. 

Despite testing negative twice, he reported mild symptoms which warranted safety concerns. The lead detective reviewed 44 hours of video surveillance on the crime scene, and his summary of that recording was crucial to the prosecution’s case, according to the prosecutor.

Given the detective’s status as a key witness, both parties refused to permit his remote attendance by Webex. 

The order of witness testimonies during trial will depend on the detective’s COVID-19 test results. Should he test negative, he will testify first for the prosecution, while a positive test would require him to quarantine for 5 days, thus delaying his testimony, said Judge Brandt. 

Additionally, CDC guidelines would normally require someone in the detective’s position to wear an N-95 or KN95 mask while testifying. However, Judge Brandt received special permission for him to wear a clear mask so long as he remains 6-feet away from everyone else. This would permit the jury to see the detective’s face, consistent with the court’s ordinary protocol for witnesses. 

 The parties discussed two motions to exclude planned testimonies by the prosecution’s medical examiner.  Defense attorney Gemma Stevens also motioned to exclude the prosecution’s suspected murder weapon, a knife that was found in Brown’s car. 

According to a previous ruling, a suspected murder weapon can only be introduced if there is direct and substantial evidence of its similarity to whichever weapon wounded the victim. 

In this case, the court has no distinguishing information about the actual knife used to murder Mahoney, making it difficult to determine its similarity to the knife in Brown’s car.  

Stevens cast further doubt on the knife’s viability as evidence, asserting that any links between Mahoney’s murder and the knife were tenuous, speculatory, and prejudicial. 

 The car knife appeared to be a small paring knife, contradicting one witness’s claims to have seen a “big ol’ knife” in Brown’s car. Additionally, there was no forensic evidence linking the knife to either the victim or Brown, and no “blunt-edge” comparison had been conducted to link the murder wound and car knife. 

The medical examiner mentioned nothing about a knife in her initial evaluation, yet later asserted that the car knife matched the wound due to both being “thin and narrow.”

Judge Brandt ruled in favor of the defense, opting to completely exclude the segment about the knife including the medical examiner’s testimony. “We know nothing about the knife, it’s vague and can’t be linked in any sort of way to the defendant,” she said.

Judge Brandt opined that the examiner’s assertions contributed nothing to the story about Mahoney’s death, and a “thin and narrow” description could be applied to virtually any knife.

Defense attorney Kevin Mosely introduced a motion to have another testimony by the prosecution’s medical examiner excluded, in which she would estimate Mahoney’s time of death based on the 400 mL of partially-digested food in his stomach.

Mosley cited their examiner’s opinion that gastrointestinal content alone cannot be used to determine a specific time of death. The prosecution agreed but asserted that a range of potential death times based on Mahoney’s stomach content would still contribute valuable information to the story of his death and should not be excluded.

 The prosecution also referenced video surveillance showing Mahoney carrying a plate of food into his apartment before his death, as well as an unwashed plate later found on his countertop. The prosecution said this evidence provided a range of time with factors for cross-examination and closing argument. 

Judge Brandt ultimately ruled to include the testimony by the medical examiner concerning the contents of Mahoney’s stomach. She explained that gastrointestinal content was only one factor of the examiner’s testimony, and the time window, which the examiner would provide for Mahoney’s death warranted both cross-examination and the jury’s consideration.

Brown is set to begin trial on Sept. 7. 

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