Kanisha Spence was working as a security guard at a Royal Farms store on Washington Boulevard in Southwest Baltimore in the early morning hours when a man asked about using the bathroom.
Per store policy, the restroom closes at 10 p.m. But the man, Marquise Powell, did not appear to believe her and started “cussing and fussing,” she testified Wednesday. So, she said, she “started fussing back at him.”
Then, she said, an agitated Powell threatened her. “I’ll take your gun from you,” she recalled, adding that he later declared, “I ain’t going nowhere.”
Eventually, Powell left. But he came back and threatened to kill her, she said, as his sister, Tonuela Hill, held him back in a space right outside the front door of the convenience store. Spence shot him one time in the head.
“It just happened too fast,” Spence testified during her murder trial in the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse. “I was scared for my life at that time.”
Spence, a mother of two who was working a double shift that day, said she did not intend to kill Powell and shot him because she was scared. Prosecutors, meanwhile, contend that the killing was premeditated murder. They argued that she shot him because because she felt disrespected.
The case later went to the jury, which deliberated for about 1 1/2 hours without reaching a verdict on charges of first- and second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Jurors will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday.
On cross-examination, Spence, 44, of Poppleton, insisted that she had told Baltimore Police that Powell threatened to take her gun.
Prosecutors showed her a transcript of her statement to detectives. Spence reviewed the document and stated, “They changed it.”
Circuit Judge Kendra Y. Ausby told the jury to disregard that statement and called for a recess. During the break, Spence rewatched a video of her interview with police.
In response to almost every question, Spence replied that the confrontation quickly unfolded. Prosecutors, though, noted that the argument happened over a period of several minutes and questioned why she did not lock the doors or call 911.
She agreed that she moved up closer to the front door. But Spence was adamant that Powell came toward her and stated that his sister could not hold him back.
In his closing argument, Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Galey continued to describe the shooting as an execution.
The shooting was captured on surveillance video. The footage “speaks for itself,” Galey said.
Powell had nothing that could hurt Spence but his words. But Spence racked her gun and pointed it at him multiple times, Galey said.
Spence, he said, intended to shoot and kill Powell because she felt disrespected.
“This didn’t have to happen,” Galey said. “This execution is only the result of the defendant’s willful, deliberate and premeditated actions — with no justification.”
Roya Hanna, Spence’s attorney, agreed that the shooting did not have to happen. But she contended that her client acted in self-defense.
Powell, she said, could have left the convenience store. He made a choice to return and threaten her client, Hanna said.
Hanna said her client did not want to kill him. But Spence, she said, was fearful that Powell could follow through on his threats and take her gun and kill her.
Prosecutors, she said, did not disprove that her client acted in self-defense.
“She was allowed to have a gun that day,” Hanna said in her closing argument, “and she was allowed to defend herself.”