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Jurors see video of dead teen

Today the jury is expected to begin deliberating the fate of a murder defendant in a drug deal gone bad.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


DADE CITY -- Robert Crawford wasn't alive to tell his story Wednesday.

But in death, he said plenty.

On the final day of testimony in the murder trial of Lawrence Joey Smith, prosecutors presented a silent video of the crime scene.

Jurors watched without making a sound or a move as the camera focused on Crawford's lifeless face and his brown hair, matted with blood and caked around a bullet hole in his skull.

For 10 minutes of eerie silence, the video -- shot at the crime scene by a Pasco County Sheriff's Office technician -- focused on the dead teenager. The body was still strapped to an ambulance gurney. An air tube taped to his mouth bore witness to a rescue team's futile efforts.

Crawford was 17.

According to investigators, Crawford and high school pal Steven Tuttle, 16 at the time, got involved in a drug buy that quickly went bad in September 1999. When acquaintances betrayed them, the teens lost $1,200 of would-be drug buyer Faunce Pearce's money.

Pearce, 39, and Smith, 23, forced the teens into Pearce's car and took them on a ride along State Road 54 in Land O'Lakes, investigators said. One after the other, the teens were ordered out of the car along the side of the highway and shot, according to prosecutors.

Pearce and Smith are each charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if the men are convicted. Pearce's trial is set for July.

Tuttle suffered a gunshot to the head but survived to testify in Smith's trial Tuesday.

Crawford died on the spot, about 11/4 miles west of U.S. 41.

Assistant Medical Examiner Marie Hansen testified Wednesday that Crawford was shot once in the left arm, with a bullet that traveled upward and lodged in the back of his throat. He was shot again in the right side of his head. That bullet traveled directly through his head, exiting behind his left ear.

"The first wound he could have survived," Hansen said. "The second, I would expect him to be unconscious relatively soon, within the order of 10 to 15 seconds, and dead in minutes."

Prosecutors Phil Van Allen and Manny Garcia rested their case Wednesday afternoon after presenting a string of drug couriers, two men who say they were present when Tuttle and Crawford were shot, and investigators and experts who testified that the .40-caliber gun they found in Tampa Bay was the gun that fired the fatal shot.

Smith's defense team of Daniel Fernandez and Scott Robbins opted not to present any witnesses or evidence, and Smith told the judge he agreed with his attorneys' advice and declined to testify on his own behalf.

Attorneys are scheduled to present closing arguments this morning, with the jury expected to get the case before noon.

In one unusual incident, a factor of the ongoing renovation at the courthouse, a juror told Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb that she felt intimidated by a crowd of witnesses gathered at the narrow mouth of a wood tunnel that leads into the courthouse.

Swanson then ordered that jurors be allowed to enter and exit the courthouse through a back door usually reserved for judges and courthouse workers. He also ordered everyone else to leave the courthouse immediately when court adjourned for the day.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Witness recounts night of terror, death

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