Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Proctor Acquitted in Burgess Murder
From the Capital-Gazette:A Prince George's County man was found not guilty Monday in the stabbing death of a woman who had run a major marijuana business out of her Davidsonville home.
Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Michele Jaklitsch acquitted Terrence Proctor, 40, of Hyattsville, of first-degree murder in the 2013 death of Nicole Burgess. Proctor elected to have Jaklitsch hear the case rather than go before a jury.
Defense attorney William Cooke filed a motion for a judgment of acquittal Monday after he argued prosecutors had little evidence to back up the charges.
Prosecutors tried over several days last week to convince Jaklitsch that Proctor murdered Burgess over drugs. Assistant State's Attorney Jason Miller said Burgess sold about $240,000 worth of marijuana a month.
But Cooke successfully argued that no evidence the prosecution presented could specifically place Proctor at the scene of the crime.
Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Wes Adams declined to be interviewed, instead releasing a statement saying he was disappointed by the verdict but respected Jaklitsch's decision.
"This case hinged on circumstantial evidence that, though we believed was sufficient, was not enough in this particular case to satisfy the high burden of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Adams said.
Lt. Ryan Frashure, county police spokesman, said his department stands by its decision to arrest Proctor and that it considers the case closed.
"Several forensic examinations of both physical evidence and digital evidence were analyzed," Frashure wrote in an email. "The evidence obtained by homicide detectives supported probable cause in securing an arrest warrant for the suspect in this case."
Wendy Howell, Burgess' godmother, said Tuesday she believes Proctor is responsible for Burgess' death but did not blame prosecutors or police.
"I do believe the state did what they could," she said.
Proctor arranged to meet Burgess on March 22, 2013, the day of her murder, and had either turned off his phone or placed it in airplane mode during the time when police believe she and her boyfriend's pit bull mix were murdered, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors argued that Proctor stole about $28,000 worth of marijuana from the home following Burgess' death.
Proctor's attorneys said there was little to place Proctor at the scene other than a DNA sample that could not be dated to the day Burgess was stabbed to death.
"Look at everything they presented," Cooke said Tuesday. "Their own DNA expert said 'I can't say when that DNA was left there.'"
"It was such a tiny amount, too. They couldn't say if it was from a sneeze or skin cells or whatever," he added.
Cooke questioned the validity of the prosecution's circumstantial evidence.
Prosecutors introduced text messages between Proctor and Burgess as evidence he was at the scene during the murder. Cooke pointed out there was no video footage from surveillance cameras at nearby businesses that showed Proctor in the area at the time or any witnesses who saw him.
In addition, Cooke said forensic evidence did not match Proctor's profile. Shoe prints lifted from the scene did not match Proctor's shoes when he was questioned by police about a week after the murder, and partial fingerprints lifted from the scene did not link back to Proctor.
The investigation and trial took a toll on the family, Howell said, as it revealed more about Burgess' lifestyle than many of them knew.