Our reporter Doug Donovan is sending updates from the coutroom throughout the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon.
The jury began deliberations at 12:30 p.m. after a morning of closing arguments. Dixon defense attorney Arnold Weiner said the prosecutors are asking the jury to decide Dixon's guilt based on their "imagination" not the "evidence" that she stole gift cards.
The packed courtroom laughed at several comments made by Weiner and even applauded lightly when he asked the jury to "end this nightmare" and the prosecution's "three and a half year pursuit."
Prosecutor Shelly Glenn gave the first closing argument. Maryland State Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh provided the final words and said to steal gift cards meant for needy children is "unspeakable."
Rohrbaugh provided the most dramatic moment in the closings by snapping 19 best buy gift cards into a line atop the wooden rail in front of the jury.
Nineteen out of 20 gift cards were used by Dixon five days after developer Patrick Turner got a call from the then-City Council president asking him to purchase such cards for needy children.
"That's not a mistake," Rohrbaugh said.
Prosecutor Glenn told the jury that developer Patrick Turner testified that Dixon told him to buy the gift cards at Best Buy and Target. "Almost like she's phoning in her order," Glenn said.
Turner called Dixon's city-issued Blackberry at 11:04 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2005, slightly more than an hour before he bought $500 in gift cards at Best Buy at 12:21 p.m. About 40 minutes later, at 1:01 p.m., Turner bought $500 in gift cards at Target. At 1:21 p.m. Turner called Dixon again.
Glenn argued that it is reasonable to assume the two discussed the purchases given that timeline. Turner could not remember the conversations, except to say that at some point Dixon asked him to buy gift cards for the needy. He was also unclear about how the cards were delivered to Dixon's City Council president office.
Dixon's defense has said that because the cards were delivered in a white envelope with her name on it but with no note or signature from Turner that Dixon assumed the cards were an anonymous gift from her former boyfriend, Ronald Lipscomb, also a developer.
The only evidence that Libscomb had given Dixon anonymous gifts was a floral arrangement delivered anonymously from him two years before Turner's cards arrived at City Hall.
The prosecution said none of that matters. The cards got to City Hall, Glenn said. "How do we know? She used them five days later," Glenn said.
The videocamera, camera bag, video tapes and other items purchased with 19 of the 20 Best Buy cards were found when prosecutors raided Dixon's home in 2008.
Dixon's Best Buy Rewards Zone card made tracing the gift cards to her easy, and Dixon does not dispute that she used the cards. Her only defense is that she thought they were hers to use.
Glenn said Dixon's argument that she didn't know Turner had given the cards is refuted by Turner's testimony that Dixon called again in December 2006 to ask him to donate gift cards for needy children again.
"You can't decide a case based on their imagination," Weiner said. "You decide it on the evidence."
He praised her years of public service and touted Dixon's pastor's testimony that she is an honest person. Weiner said Lipscomb's gift cards were the strongest part of the prosecution's case but that those charges were tossed. Now, he said, "you have the job of "remembering what you are supposed to forget" about Lipscomb.
The jury was instructed to disregard the testimony of six witnesses and more than 30 exhibits.
No one should have a verdict of guilt "based on reconstructed memory," Weiner said.
He said the office of state prosecutor disrespected Dixon by searching every "nook and cranny" of the mayor's home in 2008 with "reckless abandon."
"I ask you to return a verdict of not guilty," Weiner said. "To end this nightmare. To put the finishing point on a 3 1/2-year relentless pursuit."
Prosecutors, who have the right to present closing before and after the defense, ended where they started on Nov. 9: with Rohrbaugh invoking the needy children whom Dixon allegedly deprived of gifts at Christmas.
He said his office did not rush to judgment, which is why the probe lasted nearly four years.
The public would expect a thorough investigation. As for Dixon's confusion defense, Rohrbaugh said: "Do you really think the City Council president's office is that confused? There was no confusion."
The case, he said, "is about the citizens of Baltimore, it's about the children of Baltimore. They expect and demand the highest integrity."