- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2004

BALTIMORE — In the city’s first death penalty case in six years, a jury yesterday convicted a man of murdering a police officer who prosecutors say was killed because of his testimony in another case.

Prosecutors said Jovan House, 22, killed police Detective Thomas Newman outside a city tavern in November 2002 in retaliation for Detective Newman’s testimony in a case against another man who tried to kill him in April 2001. Detective Newman was shot nine times in the 2002 fatal attack.

The jury deliberated for more than five hours before convicting House of four charges, which were first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and two gun charges. The jury of 10 women and two men will meet again Friday to hear testimony in the sentencing phase of the case.

Detective Newman was shot by two gunmen. Two other men charged in his death, Raymond Saunders and Anthony Brown, are awaiting trial. Mr. Saunders, who is the half-brother of one of the men convicted of trying to kill Detective Newman in 2001, also could get a death sentence. Mr. Brown is accused of driving the getaway car.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Clark hugged Detective Newman’s relatives and friends after the verdict was announced. He said the jury’s decision sent a message that violence against law enforcement will not be tolerated.

“This was an attack on society itself,” Commissioner Clark said outside the courthouse.

Rena Martin, Detective Newman’s sister, said the verdict was “a victory on a journey of justice” for her family and her brother.

Asked about the possible death sentence for the killer, Miss Martin said: “We’re asking that justice be served, and that decision is left in the hands of the jury.”

Defense attorney William Kanwisher said he was disappointed by the verdict.

“We’re going to mount a strenuous defense in an attempt to save Mr. House’s life,” he said. “A life worth saving.”

Detective Newman was off duty in the moments before the shooting, but prosecutors plan to argue he automatically went back on duty when he reached for his weapon in defense because a crime was being committed.

Defense attorney Mark Van Bavel asked jurors during the trial to carefully consider whether Detective Newman was on duty at the time of the shooting.

For House to be sentenced to the death penalty, jurors must determine that Detective Newman was killed while on duty.

A death penalty case had not gone to trial in Baltimore since 1998, when a jury sentenced convicted murderer Joseph Metheny to death. An appeals court overturned his sentence and he was sentenced to life without parole.

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