Feb. 02--Defense attorneys say Deandre Baskerville acted in self-defense when he fatally stabbed an acquaintance outside of Chapel Hill Mall last summer.
Prosecutors, though, argue Baskerville wasn't justified when he stabbed Terrance Rogers Sr. in the neck after an argument that began inside the mall and moved outside.
"This case is about a man, his fiance and his children who go to the mall to buy shoes for his son and he ended up losing his life," Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi said during his opening statement Monday.
Baskerville, 29, is charged with aggravated murder for the Aug. 19 stabbing of Rogers, 35, also of Akron. Police say Rogers and Baskerville got into a verbal dispute inside the mall, then took the argument outside near an east entrance when Baskerville pulled out a knife and stabbed Rogers. Police say Baskerville fled in a red sport utility vehicle and Rogers stumbled inside the mall, collapsing near the Finish Line store.
The trial is expected to last through the end of the week, with testimony beginning Tuesday morning.
The stabbing received extra attention because of where it happened, with heightened concerns about the viability of Chapel Hill Mall, the Akron area's secondary mall to Summit Mall in Fairlawn.
Before hearing opening arguments, the five female and seven male jurors visited Chapel Hill Mall to see the areas they will be hearing about. Andrew Delamatre, a judicial assistant for Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, showed the jurors a few key places inside and outside of the mall. He didn't discuss the facts of the case during the brief tour that stretched from the east entrance by Sears to the Finish Line store inside the mall.
Friends and family members of Baskerville and Rogers attended the opening statements, taking up two rows of the courtroom.
LoPrinzi told the jurors Rogers went to the mall to buy Air Jordans for his son. The family walked through the mall, looking in different shoe stores until they reached Foot Locker. He said a camera in the Foot Locker captured Baskerville shaking hands with Rogers and then the two men arguing. He said witnesses heard Rogers tell Baskerville, "Let's take this outside."
LoPrinzi said the two men continued to quarrel as they went toward Sears and then exited the mall. Two middle school students heard Rogers say to Baskerville, "I don't need your money ... I'm not scared of you." They turned away and then heard a popping sound that prosecutors say was Baskerville stabbing Rogers in the neck. Rogers went back in the mall, clutching his wound and making it to the Finish Line store.
LoPrinzi said Rogers' fiancee and an Akron detective attempted to slow the bleeding from Rogers' wound, but he died without saying anything about what happened.
LoPrinzi said Rogers' fiancee knew Baskerville because he had been to their home a few times, though she didn't initially recall his name. She picked him out of a photo array.
LoPrinzi said Baskerville fled Akron after the incident, but was arrested Sept. 23 in West Virginia by a federal task force.
LoPrinzi said prosecutors and defense attorneys agree on about 90 percent of the facts of the case.
"There is no question that Baskerville stabbed and killed Terrance Rogers," LoPrinzi said. "The only question is: was that killing right or wrong ... I believe after you hear our arguments, you will be convinced Baskerville had no right to take Terrance's life that day."
Erik Jones, who is representing Baskerville, along with defense attorney Larry Whitney, conceded that the lawyers agree on most of the facts. But, he said they disagree on key points involving the events before and after the stabbing.
Jones said Baskerville grew up in Akron and had known Rogers for 10 years. He said both men practiced a "street lifestyle" and ran in the same circles. He said Baskerville went to the mall to pay his cellphone bill and happened to run into Rogers.
Jones urged jurors to pay attention to details like whose idea it was to take the argument outside, how Rogers also had a knife and the fact that Rogers' blood-alcohol level was higher than the legal limit for driving. He predicted jurors will find the killing was justified and acquit his client.
"Listen to all of the evidence and come back with a fair and just verdict," he urged them.
After the opening arguments and the exit of the jury, attorneys discussed several procedural issues, including how prosecutors offered Baskerville a deal in which he would plead guilty to murder, which carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison. Baskerville declined.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.
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