The day after Thanksgiving last year, around 1:30 p.m., Justin M. Carter took a walk behind Winterthur Apartments, planning to sell the bag of marijuana in his pocket.
Minutes later, the 19-year-old Reston resident laid face down on a wooded pathway near a bench, bleeding from a gunshot to his chest and grasping his last breaths of cold November air. A friend stood at his side waiting for first responders.
For the past two days, Aug. 28-29, another 19-year-old, Allen J. Anderson of Lorton, was on trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court for the first-degree murder of Carter. He took the stand Tuesday to explain to the jury that the gun fired accidentally during a botched drug deal turned robbery. If convicted, Anderson faces 20 years to life in prison.
The jury, which was still deliberating as of press time, is expected to issue a verdict Wednesday.
IN CLOSING ARGUMENTS Tuesday, Commonwealth Attorney Ian M. Rodway painted a different picture altogether, arguing Anderson knowingly attempted to rob Carter before killing him in cold blood.
Anderson, then a senior at South Lakes High School, was arrested the evening of Nov. 23, 2005 and charged with Carter’s murder.
According to police testimony during the trial, Anderson, along with three juvenile accomplices, plotted to rob Carter of his marijuana.
“I lied about not being there. I lied about not having a gun,” said Anderson in a taped interview with Fairfax County Det. I.M. “June” Boyle the day after the incident, Nov. 24, 2005.
Anderson also admitted that he bought a 9mm pistol in New York a month earlier for $300 and then sold it to his friend Tony Fitts, 17, for $200 sometime in November, 2005.
On the day of the incident, the four friends — Carter, Fitts, Marquis Brown, 17, and Jose Green — met up behind Hunters Woods Shopping Center, according to police testimony.
Marquis Brown then called Carter to buy the marijuana, hoping to lure him into the woods for the robbery, according to Boyle’s testimony. Brown later testified before the jury that the foursome never intended to rob Carter.
When the drug deal started, Fitts exchanged $60 for the drugs.
“[Carter] said, ‘No, I think you’re short,” said Anderson in the taped interview, which was submitted as evidence. Then, Fitts pretending like he was looking for more money “had got up, cocked the gun and flipped it to me,” said Anderson.
Anderson testified that he held the gun pointed downward to his side near his right thigh, but then Carter saw the gun and realized he was being robbed.
“He pushed Tony [Fitts] out of the way and he came for me,” said Anderson in the taped interview with Det. Boyle.
While taking the stand during the trial, Anderson testified that he and Carter then struggled for the gun. “He pushed Tony out of the way and started wrestling with me for the gun,” said Anderson. “I’m trying to move away from him and that’s when we got close and that’s when the gun went off … I know for a fact, I didn’t pull the trigger.”
ANDERSON’S ATTORNEY, Kelly Dennis, argued that Anderson never intended to rob Carter much less kill him. Dennis said the evidence showed that the shooting was accidental. “I think they’re all guilty of involuntary manslaughter,” said Dennis in his opening argument.
Dennis said it was Fitts who intended to rob Carter all along, even planning a robbery the previous day that never occurred.
The Commonwealth didn’t charge the other three juveniles with any crimes, said Dennis.
“It’s just stupid,” said Dennis when asked why the three other juveniles weren’t charged. “[The Commonwealth] just charged the adult — the easy thing.”
Testimony among Brown, Fitts and Anderson varied greatly. Brown testified Anderson shot Carter accidentally. Fitts told Det. Boyle that Anderson shot Carter without remorse.
Brown, of Reston, who watched the two wrestle for the gun, said he wished he could go back in time to stop the shooting.
“It didn’t feel real, like a movie,” said Brown in an interview after the trial. “If I could rewind everything, I would probably never have called Justin.”
Carter’s mother, Debbie O’Brien, still waiting for the verdict, wants closure. “I just don’t want to go through the pain anymore,” she said. But she thought the other three people with Anderson ought to be charged.