Update: Jury Deliberating in Germantown Murder Trial
James E. Biddinger, 27, of Germantown, faces a life sentence if he’s found guilty of first-degree murder.
(Updated 2:16 p.m. Monday, March 26) As of 2 p.m. Monday, the jury still had not reached a verdict in the trial of James E. Biddinger, who's been accused of killing Kevin A. Mbayo, 22.
The jury entered deliberations at around 1:30 p.m. Friday, but at around 7 p.m. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenberg asked the jury return 9:30 a.m. Monday morning to continue deliberating.
(Original) Five days of testimony produced more than 100 pieces of physical evidence — all hints of how a dispute over a clogged toilet could have devolved into a fatal knife fight on May 3, 2011. Now a jury is left to decide the fate of a Germantown man who’s on trial for murdering Kevin A. Mbayo.
The jury entered deliberations at around 1:30 p.m. Friday, tasked with determining whether or not James E. Biddinger, 27, was guilty of killing Mbayo, 22, who died of a single knife wound to his back.
The jury had not reached a verdict as of 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Biddinger faces a mandatory life sentence if he is found guilty of first-degree murder. It is also possible that the jury may return a verdict on lesser charges of — charges second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and second-degree felony murder.
“The only fight that occurred was Kevin’s fight to save his own life,” prosecutor Carol Crawford said.
In order to render a guilty verdict for first-degree murder, the state had to show Mbayo’s death was premeditated, willful and deliberate.
During her closing arguments, Crawford claimed that Biddinger acted out of deep-seeded disdain for Mbayo and alleged that he stabbed Mbayo in the back on the couch before the fight began.
Crawford claimed that after the stabbing, Biddinger cut himself with a kitchen knife and hid the knife behind a box of cereal in order to make it look as though he got injured during the scuffle.
Crawford alleged that the reason Biddinger wound up admitting to police that his own knife used in the stabbing — the initial story Biddinger relayed to police and to 9-1-1 was that Mbayo attacked him with a kitchen knife — was because police officers threatened to get a warrant to search the house; he was afraid police would have found the kitchen knife, blowing his story.
In general, Crawford’s closing arguments homed in on discrepancies in Biddinger's story, the fact that he lied to police about the knife and allegedly tried to control what witnesses told police after the stabbing.
“Sometimes in listening to this case, it seems like you’re living in fantasy land,” Crawford told jurors.
In the closing arguments for the defense, Melanie Creedon, who is with the public defender’s office, said that it was prosecution’s theories were derived from “fantasy land,” not Biddinger’s testimony.
She said there was no evidence to support that Biddinger’s hand wound was self-inflicted and said that the location of the blood in the townhouse living room did not support the prosecution’s claim that Mbayo was stabbed in the back on the couch, but instead was more consistent with a “face to face” fight.
The defense is arguing that Biddinger acted in self-defense, and that Mbayo was the aggressor during the fight.
“What Mr. Biddinger did in those moments was fight back, to repel an attack,” Creedon told jurors during her summation.
Self-defense is considered a legal defense in the case of murder.
In the defesne’s summation, Creedon said the state had not sufficiently proved its case for murder and that Biddinger was acting in self-defense — which can be used as a defense for voluntary manslaughter.