Three teens were walking alongside Raymond Roseboro and Prince Okorie as the group of friends headed home from Roosevelt High School in Northwest Washington just before 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30, 2010. Prosecutors say Roseboro shot Okorie so suddenly, with a gun no one knew he had, that only one teen could identify him before they all ran away.
Attorneys delivered opening statements in Judge Russell Canan’s courtroom Monday in a case that has proved elusive for prosecutors. It’s the third time Roseboro has faced trial at D.C. Superior Court for the murder. He faces first-degree murder while armed charges, along with several weapons charges.
“This was a murder that was unexpected; that came out of nowhere,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Gripkey told the jury.
Gripkey tried the case in Sept. 2012 before Judge Thomas Motley, only to have it end in a mistrial when the jury failed to reach a verdict. He spoke before Judge Canan before, too, in Roseboro’s first trial in March 2012. Gripkey convinced eight jurors that Roseboro was guilty, but four could not be swayed.
This time, though, almost certainly will be the last. Roseboro will either be sentenced to prison time or will leave D.C. jail a free man.
Roseboro’s attorney, James Rudasill Jr., said in an interview with Homicide Watch in November that he had represented only one other murder defendant who stood trial three times, and that was in the mid-1990s. Ultimately, prosecutors gave up when the third jury deadlocked 6-6, Rudasill said.
Legal precedent makes it very difficult for prosecutors to try a case a fourth time if they still cannot secure a conviction, Rudasill said.
Rudasill said in court that the jury needed to keep in mind what was not known about what happened the afternoon of Nov. 30, 2010.
No ballistic, physical, forensic or fingerprint evidence links Roseboro to the scene, Rudasill said, and the gun used to shoot Okorie was never recovered.
Roseboro maintains he was at home preparing to meet with a vocational counselor at the time of the murder.
Gripkey said he planned to call as witnesses the other teens who were with Okorie at the time of the attack, as well as two adults – one the parent of one of the teens – who saw them near the time of the murder.
Rudasill, though, aimed to discredit those witnesses and topple the prosecution’s case.
He said in November that both side’s witnesses would be equally compelling on the stand.
“It’s very difficult for a reasonable juror to resolve that difference,” Rudasill said.