- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

BALTIMORE Attorneys for Dontee Stokes painted a graphic picture yesterday of a boy terrorized by a sexually abusive priest, whom he shot years later after he couldn't recover from the trauma.
There's no question that Mr. Stokes shot the Rev. Maurice Blackwell, defense attorney Warren Brown said during opening statements in the attempted murder trial. But jurors must consider Mr. Stokes' state of mind when he drove up to Father Blackwell's rowhouse May 13 and shot the priest three times.
"Nobody, unless they've been through what this boy went through, has any idea what he was thinking when he pulled the trigger," Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Brown didn't pause in his fiery remarks as city prosecutor Sylvester Cox repeatedly objected and was overruled.
Mr. Cox also tried but failed to keep Mr. Stokes' allegations of sexual abuse out of the trial. Mr. Cox argued that Mr. Stokes' accusations that he was raped by Father Blackwell nearly a decade ago have nothing to do with the shooting.
Mr. Stokes told investigators that he shot Father Blackwell after the priest did not apologize for abusing him in the early 1990s, police said.
In his opening statement, Mr. Cox described the scene of the shooting, telling jurors that Mr. Stokes called Father Blackwell over to his car and talked to him before shooting him once and then twice more as the priest laid on the ground.
"What the heck he's thinking about, I really have no idea," Mr. Cox told the jury of 11 women and one man. "Since that day, he's been confessing that he shot Maurice Blackwell."
Mr. Brown said he intentionally tried to keep men off the jury. The defense attorney said he listened to radio talk shows after the shooting and found women were more sympathetic to Mr. Stokes.
"They can relate to a man imposing himself on them sexually," he said.
Mr. Brown said his client should not be held criminally responsible because he was suffering a "mental disorder" as a result of the abuse.
"Dontee's been waiting since 1993 to have a wrong be righted. You all have the power to do that," Mr. Brown said.
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Brown said Cardinal William Keeler will be called to the stand to answer for the events that led to the shooting.
"There are people who have to be held accountable besides Dontee," Mr. Brown said. "The church dropped the ball from the beginning; Maurice Blackwell got the whole thing started, and now everyone wants to dump the whole thing on Dontee?"
Cardinal Keeler said after the shooting that he regretted reinstating Blackwell after 1993 abuse allegations by Mr. Stokes. Father Blackwell returned to his post after spending three months undergoing psychiatric evaluations.
Cardinal Keeler has "got to explain to the world the fact that he took Maurice Blackwell out of the parish for only 90 days and then returned him, telling him only to stay away from children," Mr. Brown said. "That had a significant impact on the mindset of Dontee. All of that plays into what he was thinking" at the time of the shooting.
Cardinal Keeler has said he restored Father Blackwell to his post at the urging of parishioners at St. Edward Church, where Father Blackwell was pastor.
During jury selection, attorneys for both sides asked potential jurors whether they had any bias for or against the Catholic Church and whether they had ever been physically disciplined in a Catholic school or were victims of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Keeler can ask the court to quash the subpoena. Archdiocese spokesman Steve Kearney said the cardinal has no information about the shooting but will appear if summoned.

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