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Death Penalty Being Considered by Jury In Triple Murder. First Time in Federal Courthouse in Greenbelt, MD
By Chris Gordon, Chief Correspondent
Tuesday, May 30, 2000; Page 5.1
The Jurors have to decide whether the aggravating circumstances of this case outweigh the mitigating circumstances. Prosecutors will call witnesses and introduce evidence that the fact this was a multiple murder, that Haynes was the "trigger man",and that the victims were left on an isolated stretch of highway in the dark of night causing one passing vehicle to hit one of the bodies causing even more grief for her family, are some of the reasons Haynes should be put to death. The Defense attorneys for Hayes will argue that he was the product of an abusive childhood, and was always subjected to the will of an authority figure. Haynes was 18 at the time of the shootings and had "spent his entire young life subjected to the mental illness his parents suffered, which culminated in an act of terror and blind commitment.", according to defense lawyer Barry Boss. In this case they will say the gun was forced into his hand by Justin Higgs, and that he succumbed to the wishes of an older "authority" figure as he had all of his life.
Prosecutor Deborah Johnston told the jury this is a trial about 3 young ladies "executed for no rational reason". In the early morning cold of January 27, 1996 three bodies were found along a remote stretch of Route 197 near Beltsville, Maryland. Because it happened near the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, it's a Federal crime. The prosecutor apologized for the crime scene photos that were going to be shocking.
This jury will have two decision to make. First, is 22 year old Willis Mark Haynes of Bowie guilty of First Degree Murder, Premeditated Murder and Use of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence. Secondly, if so, does he deserve to die.
It all started on January 26, 1996 when Haynes and his friend Dustin John Higgs of Laurel decided to drive into the District, meet some ladies and bring them back to Laurel for dancing, drugs and drinking.
But during the party Higgs got fresh with one and was rebuffed. He grabbed 21 year old Tanji Jackson and she swatted his hand away. An argument ensued. The three girls put on their coats and left. They were tipsy and slipped on the ice on the sidewalk of the apartment complex. "Higgs pulled out a loaded .38 caliber and slipped it into his pocket.", the prosecutor said. "Higgs was angry, and afraid that Miss Jackson knew someone" she would tell and he would be in trouble. Haynes got the 3 girls into the van saying they would drive them home to the District, but as they drove down the lonely dark stretch of Route 197, Higgs hands the gun to Haynes who is riding in the passenger seat.
Haynes got out. He fired a shot that hit 19 year old Tamika Black in the Back and then fired another round into her chest, into her heart killing her. She had worked as a teacher's aid at a private school in the District. "Mr. Haynes didn't stop there", according to the prosecutor. He grabbed Mishann Chinn, 23, who worked with a children's choir at a Temple Hills church and pressed the .38 caliber up against her head and fired a shot that killed her instantly. "As cold as it sounds, that's how it happened" the Prosecutors says. "A shot that could do nothing but kill her. Haynes is also charged with Kidnaping for taking the young ladies in the van under false pretenses leading them to believe they would be taken home and then "executed them in the middle of Route 197. There was no justification." Haynes acted with "Malice." according the prosecutor, " Without regard to another person." And with, " Premeditation, an act done with deliberation."
The bodies were left int eh darkness of the highway that frigid cold morning. Another vehicle came along and hit Jackson's body causing it to sustain additional horrible injuries.
Victor Gloria was the third man riding in the van that night. In 1998 he pleaded guilty to being an "accessory after the fact" to the slayings. "Gloria will testify against Haynes", the prosecutor promised the jury. He was in that vehicle and will tell you what he remembers about that night."
After shooting the women Haynes threw the gun in a river. They returned and cleaned up the apartment. Haynes used bleach on areas he thought the women may have touched.
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