MARYLAND

University of Maryland beating trial: Judge dismisses one charge, two left

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The judge in the trial against two Prince George's County police officers accused in the assault of a University of Maryland student granted a defense motion to dismiss the first degree assault charge, ruling there is no evidence of strikes to the victim's head.

Officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison still dace two charges in the case - second degree assault and misconduct.

Baker and Harrison are accused of beating up John McKenna as students celebrated the men's basketball team's victory over Duke on March 3, 2010. As he skipped down the sidewalk with his arms raised in celebration, McKenna approached officers on horseback and was struck with police batons.

Video from a street level cell phone camera was shown to the jury on the third day of the trial. Prosecutors called the video significant since it seems to show McKenna singing happily and in a non-threatening fashion. It also seems he is given no police orders other than "quiet" and "back up" before he was struck.

Baker and Harrison admit they can be seen on camera striking McKenna, but they claim the blows are reasonable. Based on the video, Judge Beverly Woodard said she saw no blows to the head and threw out the first degree assault charge.

On the first day of the trial, the jury was shown a video of McKenna's encounter with police, which was shot from a dorm room window.

Defense lawyers said he ignored orders to stop and turn around. The state's attorney called it a beating and said Baker and Harrison abuse their power, violated the public's trust and broke the law. The two officers were indicted last year following a lengthy investigation.

The jury viewed the tape again Tuesday and heard from other officers who were present for the incident took the stand. The officers were clearly uncomfortable testifying against their fellow officers. One testified Baker confided to him that he was embarrassed by what happened that night. Another told the court he never heard a police command made to McKenna before or during the assault.

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