Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Prince George’s County jury began deliberating yesterday over whether Roger B. Hargrave tried to kill his estranged wife by dousing her with gasoline, then lighting a match and setting her on fire.

The basic facts of what happened the morning of Oct. 10 were not in dispute as prosecutors and defense attorneys presented their closing arguments: Mr. Hargrave reportedly walked into a T-Mobile store in Clinton, poured liquid onto Yvette Cade’s head from a soda bottle, then chased after her — lighting a match when she fell to the ground.

While prosecutors tried to convince jurors that Mr. Hargrave, 34, was guilty of attempted murder, the defense argued for an assault conviction.

This case was “rooted in rage, propelled by malice and executed without mercy,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said. He said Mrs. Cade, who sustained burns to more than 65 percent of her body, survived only because she managed to run to a workplace sink to put out the flames and received quick medical attention.

“Should he benefit?” Mr. Ivey asked, gesturing toward Mr. Hargrave. “That’s up to you.”

Assistant Public Defender Gary Ward argued that the evidence did not provide a clear picture.

“A specific intent to burn someone is not a specific intent to kill someone,” he said.

Mrs. Cade, 32, sat in the front row of the courtroom wearing a short-sleeved sweater that revealed the scars of a crime that has shocked the community. During nearly two hours on the witness stand Tuesday, Mrs. Cade said Mr. Hargrave had warned that he would “fry me like Crisco grease” if she refused to reconcile with him.

Mr. Hargrave, who was led into the courtroom in handcuffs, never made eye contact with his ex-wife, who has undergone more than a dozen surgeries since she was burned.

Some survivors of domestic abuse have attended the trial this week. The case has been watched closely since it was reported that District Court Judge Richard A. Palumbo had lifted a protective order against Mr. Hargrave about three weeks before the attack.

Judge Palumbo was removed from the courtroom and placed on administrative duty because of his handling of the case. A state panel that disciplines judges is considering a complaint against him.

Denise McCain, executive director of the Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County, said she hopes the case helps people recognize the seriousness of domestic violence.

“Cade is a brave woman. We hope she will heal,” she said.

During the afternoon, jurors submitted two requests to the judge. They sought a definition of the charges and a clarification of the differences between first- and second-degree attempted murder.

The judge provided jurors a printed copy of the verbal instructions he offered them before deliberations began.

Jurors deliberated for about five hours yesterday and will return this morning.

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