Opening Statements for Both Sides in a Murder Trial

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On Sept. 13, attorneys for both parties delivered opening statements in a 2020 homicide case before DC Superior Court Judge Michael O’Keefe.

Ravel Mills, 29 is charged with first-degree murder, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and carrying a pistol without a license for his alleged involvement in the murder of 28-year-old Toussaunt Strong. The incident took place on the 3400 Block of 24th St, SE, on April, 18 2020. 

According to the prosecution, “Toussaunt Strong was chased up 24th street and killed in cold blood by the defendant.” 

As evidence, prosecutors showed surveillance footage of an altercation between Strong and Mills that took place before the shooting. Strong was seen in the video jogging up the street being followed by an individual that people identified as Mills. 

The prosecution showed video taken before and after the murder; however there was no footage or eyewitness accounts of the actual shooting.

Defense Attorney Kevin O’Sullivan claimed the prosecution had, “tunnel vision, rushed judgment” and was “mistaking conclusions” regarding Mills’ involvement in the crime. O’Sullivan argued, “Mills is on trial for a crime someone else committed.”

He said there is no DNA or other evidence linking Mills to the gun allegedly used in the crime.

The defense claims that Mills was a victim of happenstance and witnessed Strong being murdered by a drug dealer who drove off after shooting Strong.

The defense questioned a witness who was inside his home adjacent to the scene.  During the incident, the witness said that seconds after he heard gunshots, he heard tires screeching as though a car was driving swiftly away. When the witness walked out of his home he found Strong lying on the ground with no one nearby.

A Metropolitan Police Department(MPD) officer, who was the first responder, was called by the prosecution. She said she saw no one fleeing the scene, just neighbors who were checking on the body. She also said that the shell casings were spread around during the commotion that followed the shooting.

The prosecution also called Strong’s mother to the stand, who said that “He was a loving, family person,” adding, “Why was my son taken away from me?”

He is survived by his mother, siblings and two children.

The trial will resume Sept. 14.

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