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Lawyers give closing arguments in Tshamba murder trial

Attorneys in the murder trial of Baltimore police officer Gahiji Tshamba offered their closing arguments Thursday morning, each trying to convince the judge of their version of events that led the 15-year veteran to shoot Tyrone Brown, a former Marine, 12 times behind several Mount Vernon nightclubs a year ago.

“What happened in that alley dealt with male ego, alcohol, women and a gun,” Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Wiggins told Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon, referring to the undisputed fact that Brown initiated the confrontation by slapping Tshamba’s female friend on the backside. “This was about power and respect, and this trial is about motivation.”

Tshamba’s lead attorney, James L. Rhodes, spent much of his long argument discrediting witnesses and slighting the thoroughness of the prosecution’s evidence presentation while alluding to the defense version of events — that Brown, whose autopsy showed he was drunk, failed to obey the off-duty officer’s commands and advanced on Tshamba until Tshamba felt he had to shoot.

Rhodes noted that he called Brown’s sister, Chantay Kangalee, as an adverse witness because part of her testimony — that Brown advanced on Tshamba — did not fit with the state’s theory. He likened her to a brave truth-teller on a sports team after the referee makes an unfavorable but correct call.

“The state’s obligation is to provide justice, not win at all costs,” Rhodes said to Hargadon, whom Tshamba chose to decide his case rather than a jury. “They chose consistently to intentionally omit certain facts, details and witnesses in presenting their case to the court.”

Wiggins said he wanted to cross-examine Kangalee, which allowed him to ask leading questions. And his response to the sports analogy was to say whether the winning basketball shot went off the backboard or straight through the rim, the result was the same.

“That’s not a contradiction,” he said. “That’s an affirmation.”

As for Tshamba’s testimony, which came Wednesday morning, Wiggins called it “a fairy tale, something that no other person in this courtroom testified to.” Rhodes did not refer to his client’s testimony.

Rhodes did refer to Brown’s mental health records, which were introduced into evidence Thursday morning and were discussed on cross-examination with the prosecution’s lone rebuttal witness, Brown’s supervisor at a city jail. But Hargadon questioned the relevance of violent incidents years before the June 5, 2010, altercation with Tshamba.

After Wiggins offered a closing rebuttal argument in which he implored Hargadon not to let the defense “pull the wool over your eyes,” the judge adjourned the proceedings and said he will return to the bench at 2:15 p.m.