Thursday, March 1, 2012
Black crime: A Baltimore jury took less than three hours to convict a 37-year-old African-American of first-degree murder and other charges for killing a high school student in a relative's house where the teen sought refuge after being shunned for being gay
Dante Parrish faces the possibility of life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on April 3, 2012. He was convicted of killing of 15-year-old Jason Mattison Jr., who had excelled in his studies and wanted to become a doctor. The young victim's relatives attended every day of the trial and watched as the lead prosecutor described how Jason was suffocated with a pillowcase, slashed with a razor and stuffed into a bedroom closet. Prosecutors said that Parrish left his palm print in the victim's blood on a door frame. The prosecutor described the young victim as virtually homeless, going from "place to place to keep a roof over his head" and settling at his great-aunt's house, where he felt comfortable. He was in an upstairs bedroom of that house on November 10, 2009, when he was attacked. Three young adults had left for a party in Cherry Hill, and the prosecutor said that Jason's great-aunt and another adult had passed out after taking heroin. Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Hastings said that a 13-year-old girl heard Mattison scream for help and managed to rouse the aunt, who opened the door to see Parrish and Jason, whose pants were below his knees. But Hastings told the jury that Parrish ordered the aunt out, and she passed out in a nearby room without understanding what she had seen. It was then, Hastings said, that Parrish killed the boy, stuffing a pillowcase down his throat and slicing his neck with a box cutter so deeply that he cut a main artery in three separate places. "Jason died a painful death, a slow death, and died at the age of 15, alone," the prosecutor told jurors. While Hastings said that Jason felt comfortable at the house, she also described it as lacking any adult supervision, where the adults were often high or drunk and there were frequent visitors. His great-aunt took in Parrish, no questions asked, because he was an old family friend, even though he hadn't been seen in 20 years, the prosecutor said. She said the family didn't know that Parrish had been convicted in 1999 of killing a man in East Baltimore and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Subsequent appeals were unsuccessful until the Innocence Project helped him get a new trial in 2008, in part because of witness identification of a gun he said he had never owned. Parrish entered an Alford plea, acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict him but maintaining his innocence. He was credited with time served and released, having served one-third of his sentence.