Dressed in a light blue button-down shirt, a blue and white stripped tie, and dark gray slacks, Raymond Roseboro took the stand in March to testify on his own behalf. Charged with murder and facing a minimum 30 years in prison, the 21-year-old tried to convince jurors that he was innocent.
In part, he succeeded. After four days of deliberations jurors told Judge Russell Canan that they were deadlocked; eight jurors were in favor of finding Roseboro guilty and four were against it.
In September prosecutors retried the case, but again the jury deadlocked.
Judge Thomas Motley urged jurors to press on, telling them: “There is no reason to suppose that the case will ever be submitted to 12 persons who are more intelligent, more impartial, or more competent to decide it nor to suppose that more or clearer evidence will be produced on one side or the other.”
The admonishment to come to a verdict was again unsuccessful. Jurors deadlocked evenly with two jurors unable to decide guilt. After four days of deliberations, Motley declared a mistrial.
The jury in that trial told Motley:
“The jury has made a thorough and thoughtful deliberation of all of the evidence provided, with much soul searching and respectful debate,” the note said. “While we understand that concensus [sic] is desirable, we do not believe that is possible.”
Now Roseboro, who has spent 22 months in jail while waiting for first one trial, then another, is waiting for a third trial. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in January.
Roseboro’s defense attorney, James Rudasill Jr. said Roseboro’s detention while awaiting trial is permissible under United States v. Salerno, a 1987 Supreme Court ruling, but that being locked up before trial is difficult and the circumstances of Roseboro’s situation are extremely rare.
Rudasill said he has represented only one other murder defendant whose case did, and that was in the mid-1990s. Prosecutors abandoned the case after jurors deadlocked 6-6 on the third attempt, Rudasill said.
Roseboro’s case is the first record of a murder charge going to a third trial in the District of Columbia since Homicide Watch DC first started keeping records in Sept. 2010.
Roseboro is accused in the shooting death of 16-year-old Prince Okorie in Nov. 2010.The shooting took place on a residential street in Petworth at 4:20 in the afternoon and when Roseboro was arrested, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier seemed pleased to have the case closed.
“This homicide occurred on an afternoon on a residential street,” Lanier said in a 2010 news release. “Members of the community offered information and have been anxious to see this case come to a closure. Our communities have spoken — this city is not a place where you can get away with murder.”
MPD Homicide Detective Darin March said at a preliminary hearing that investigators believe Okorie was killed because of rumors that he was cooperating with the government’s investigation into Eric Foreman, a friend of Roseboro’s who was later convicted of killing Neil Godleski, a Catholic University of America graduate student.
According to charging documents, prosecutors believe Roseboro invited Okorie to walk to a store with him and two other friends. On the way there, they say, he shot Okorie in the back of the head and the face.
At trial, two witnesses for the prosecution, both young men who said they were friends of Okorie and Roseboro, said that the four were walking together to a shop when a gunshot rang out. One of the men’s fathers testified that he saw the group of young men walking in the direction of the shop that afternoon, then, a few minutes later, heard sirens.
Another prosecution witness, a nearby resident who witnessed the shooting while taking out the trash, identified the shooter as having “short dreads.” Prosecutor Steve Gripkey argued that Roseboro was the only one in that group who had that hairstyle at the time.
Those witnesses, said Gripkey, had reason to remember details of that day because for them, Nov. 30, 2010, was “not an ordinary day.” Those witnesses, Gripkey said, were confronted with “all of that drama, all of that horror, [of Okorie’s death] on Delafield.”
A gun used to shoot Okorie was never found, and a shell casing left at the scene failed to yield any fingerprints that might have linked Roseboro to the crime.
On the stand Roseboro testified that he did not shoot Okorie the afternoon of Nov. 30, 2010. In an accounting of how he had spent that day, Roseboro said he was at home that afternoon, at the same time Okorie was shot, waiting for an appointment with a jobs counselor.
Roseboro said he saw Okorie the afternoon that Okorie was killed. He said that while walking home he saw Okorie sitting on a porch with nine or ten young men about the same age as Okorie. He didn’t see anyone he recognized, except Okorie.
“He was Muslim and I’m a Muslim so when I see him I greet him ‘salaam,’” Roseboro said. “I salaam’ed him.”
When asked to comment on Roseboro’s arrest and the case investigation, MPD referred a request for comment to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office declined to comment, citing the office’s policy not to discuss pending cases.
When asked why prosecutors may be continuing to pursue Roseboro’s case, Roseboro’s attorney, Rudasill, said that the allegation of witness intimidation might make the case a higher priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Rudasill, though, said he thought the case boiled down to witness misidentification – a common flaw in criminal investigations. Both sides’ witnesses were equally compelling on the stand, he said.
“It’s very difficult for a reasonable juror to resolve that difference,” Rudasill said.
But twelve more will be drafted early next year to do just that. It’s unclear what additional evidence prosecutors have against Roseboro that wasn’t presented at those trials.
Hung juries are a rarity in the criminal justice system, and few murder cases go to trial three times.
Rudasill said he thinks Roseboro’s third trial will almost certainly be his last because legal precedent makes it difficult for prosecutors to continue past that point, he said.
“Basically, the Supreme Court has adopted a baseball standard,” Rudasill said. “Three strikes, the government typically will honor that.”
More recently, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in March that prosecutors could retry a defendant on multiple charges even if a jury had unanimously rejected the most serious charges, like first-degree murder. In Roseboro’s case, at least some jurors have always favored a guilty verdict on the most serious charge- first-degree murder while armed.
Roseboro says he doesn’t doubt prosecutors’ motives for pressing ahead with the case. He just thinks they are wrong.
“The lawyers are doing their job,” Roseboro’s attorney, James Rudasill Jr., said Thursday.
The new trial is scheduled to begin January 14 at 9:30 a.m. Roseboro remains in custody at D.C. jail.