Did Derrick Battle use a baseball bat as an assault weapon or to protect his own life on the afternoon of Jan. 14 near the Dulles Park shopping center?
Opening arguments began Tuesday in Battle's trial at Fairfax County Circuit Court. Prosecuting and defense attorneys tell contrasting stories.
After being assaulted by a group of five boys and beaten with the metal bat, one of two teenage victims was air-lifted to a local hospital where he spent almost three weeks in critical condition with head injuries, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Murphy.
"Although they are the 'sort of people who start fights,'" said Murphy about the two victims, "we don't want people, even like them, to be killed or injured on our street side."
Battle, 16 at the time of the incident, plead not guilty at a trial this week to charges of aggravated maiming and malicious wounding.
Regardless of who started the fight or whether the victims were gang members or associated with a street gang, Battle and his friends outnumbered the two, said Murphy.
Demonstrating a swinging motion with his arms coming down like they were hitting a person on the ground with a bat, Murphy questioned when "self defense no longer becomes self defense?"
"Whatever they did they didn't deserve what they got," he said about what started the fight. "Whatever they got was not done in self defense."
According to Battle's defense attorney Michael Worthy, because Battle believed the two teenagers were violent gang members who had a history of carrying deadly weapons, he felt he needed protection.
"I'm asking you to understand my client, a student who made a choice," said Worthy to the jury. "I'm asking each and every one of you to not only support my client, but to also support the choice he made to protect himself and his friends."
HERNDON POLICE responded to a malicious wounding call at 5:03 p.m. on Jan. 14 in the 1000 block of Elden Street, near the end of the Dulles Park shopping center on the sidewalk at Alabama Drive. According to police reports, a group of five teenage males confronted and assaulted a 16-year-old and 17-year-old.
Worthy claims his client and friend were the ones who were first confronted by the two males carrying at least one 32-ounce Corona bottle to be used as a weapon.
"My client’s intent at the time," said Worthy, "was to make sure these bottles did not hurt him or his friends who did not have any protection at the time."
Battle struck the victims until he thought they were no longer a threat, according to Worthy. Battle told his mother immediately of the incident and the two of them contacted police. At the police station, Battle was told it was clear he acted in self-defense and he had nothing to worry about, said Worthy. The next day he was arrested and charged in relation to the case.
The 17-year-old victim of the assault pleaded guilty in June in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to carrying a machete in a separate incident that took place in May, after his recovery. He was sentenced earlier this month to enter a six-month locked-treatment program.
Battle has been jailed at the Fairfax County Juvenile Detention Center since January.