20th Birthday: Convicted of Murder

20th Birthday: Convicted of Murder

Less than an ounce of marijuana becomes catalyst for murder.

Details in the murder story were told two different ways, but the ending is the same.

Because of one-half ounce of marijuana mixed with a borrowed handgun, a 24-year-old is dead and a Burke teenager was convicted of murder the day after he turned 20 years old.

Following a four-day trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court last week, a jury convicted Charles "Max" Caprino of the second-degree murder of Orator "Jose" Wesley Hall IV. Hall was shot twice — once in the mouth and fatally in his back — on the 6600 block of Old Blacksmith Drive in Burke on Dec. 10, 2006.

Police found one of Hall's teeth as well as bullet fragments on the Burke roadway, in addition to the two bullet fragments recovered inside his body at his autopsy the next day.

On May 24, 2007, the jury recommended Caprino serve almost 16 years for second-degree murder, attempted maiming and two counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

"I feel horrible. I pray every night for him, that his soul will rest in heaven," said Caprino, who unsuccessfully argued that he acted in self-defense while attempting to sell a small amount of marijuana.

Caprino, 20, of the 9600 block of Iron Master Drive in Burke, is scheduled to be formally sentenced by Judge David T. Stitt in August.

"It has caused us a lot of hurt, a lot of hurt, on a daily basis," said Bonnie Hall, the mother of Hall, 24 of Fairfax.

"This has affected everyone," said Debra Caprino, the mother of Max Caprino.

"I know he is truly sorry as we all are," she said. "He realizes the hurt he caused the Hall family, as well as the hurt to our entire family. There are no winners in this."

But shortly after the two mothers spoke inside the courtroom during the sentencing portion of the trial, sheriff's deputies sat between the two families in the courtroom hallway as tensions escalated between other family members who awaited the jury's recommendation for Caprino’s sentence.

BOTH SIDES AGREE that Max Caprino met Dustin R. Edwards on the 6600 block of Old Blacksmith Drive the night of Dec. 10, 2006.

Max Caprino's father drove him to the spot of the drug deal — a block or so away from Caprino’s house — though Caprino told his father he was returning a video to a friend before his father was to drop him off to meet other friends.

Caprino planned to sell Edwards half an ounce of marijuana while his father sat in the car behind Edward's car where the drug deal was to take place.

Edwards, who has a felony conviction in North Carolina and misdemeanor convictions in Fairfax, didn't intend to buy the pot, he testified.

"We were going to take it from him," said Edwards.

"Our plan was to get it from him and him to get out of the car, but it didn't happen like that."

Caprino, who testified that he had borrowed the .38-caliber revolver from a friend a week or two earlier, sat in the front passenger seat of Edwards' Plymouth Sundance.

Edwards sat in the driver’s seat of his car while Hall — 6-foot-four and over 200 pounds — remained in the back seat, though Caprino said he didn’t see him at first.

"I gave [the marijuana] to [Edwards], he took it, he looked at it and said, 'This is good.' He cuffed it and put it in his pocket," Caprino said. "I asked him, 'Can I have the money?'"

STORIES DIVERGE sharply at that point, according to testimony and evidence presented in the trial.

Caprino said he was threatened by Hall who had a shotgun, while Edwards maintains no weapons were involved, except for Caprino’s.

In both versions, Caprino and Edwards said they "tussled" over Caprino's gun, before Caprino shot and killed Hall.

Caprino murdered Hall in a deliberate malicious act, said the prosecutor Ian M. Rodway.

Caprino acted in self-defense and had no intention of harming or killing Hall, said his defense attorney William B. Cummings.

Caprino murdered Hall in a "drug deal gone bad," said Rodway.

"It was not a drug deal gone bad, but a robbery gone bad," said the defense attorney.

THE JURY REJECTED Caprino’s claim of self-defense, deliberating over the course of two days before convicting him of second-degree murder.

Caprino faced five to 40 years for murder, and up to 10 years for the attempted maiming of Edwards.

The jury recommended that Caprino serve seven years for the murder of Hall and nine months for the attempted maiming of Edwards.

The jury also recommended Caprino serve mandatory five- and three-year sentences on two counts of use of a firearm during commission of a felony.