A Prince George’s County, Md. jury found a Bowie State University student not guilty of first-degree murder and related charges in the Sept. 15, 2011 fatal stabbing of her roommate.
The verdict came only three hours after closing arguments in a three-day case that was at times tense and emotional.
Alexis Simpson, 20, and her family and friends shared hugs after the verdict was read. Afterward, Simpson approached one of her attorneys, Christopher Griffiths, with a huge grin on her face. “Give me a hug,” she said.
Simpson took the stand on the third and last day of the trial, telling the jury that she had struck out at roommate Dominique Frazier because she feared for her own life.
“Her testimony was genuine and it was the truth,” said Griffiths. “The evidence of the trial corroborated her story and clearly the jury felt that she acted in self-defense.”
Frazier’s family was visibly shocked and upset over the verdict. The jury’s decision means that Simpson will face no punishment whatsoever for the killing of Frazier. Friends of the slain teenager could be heard sobbing as they left the Upper Marlboro, Md. courthouse.
Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks told reporters after the verdict was read that she was “stunned and disappointed” at the jury’s decision.
“I feel for both of the mothers in this case,” said Alsobrooks, the mother of a young daughter. “We lost a young woman to violence and another young woman, her life is forever changed. There are no winners in this case.”
Simpson faced one count of first degree murder, two counts of second degree murder, two counts of voluntary manslaughter, one count of involuntary manslaughter and a weapons charge.
Former Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said the jury obviously found Simpson’s testimony credible.
“Typically in cases like this, juries tend to gravitate to manslaughter,” he said, “But the fact that they even acquitted on that suggests that she gave testimony that was compelling and persuasive and as a result, they accepted the self defense theory that she presented…People have the right to defend themselves.”
On the witness stand, Simpson gave emotional testimony recounting the events that led to the fatal stabbing. She recalled a conflict between her and Frazier during the first few weeks of school. She said she requested a room change nearly one week prior to the incident, but was told by the dorm management company, Capstone, that there were no alternative living arrangements available at the time.
Simpson testified that she stayed with her mother in District Heights, Md. or her boyfriend in Mitchellville, Md. She said she returned to the dorm on Sept. 15 to attend a comedy show on campus that was part of the university’s homecoming festivities.
Simpson testified that on the night of the stabbing, Frazier and two of her friends, Keaira Johnson and Nailah Tucker, also students at Bowie State, were in the suite she and Frazier shared with two other students. Simpson took a nap and when she woke up, she heard music playing in the bathroom. She said she went in and turned it off so that she could make a phone call. She said while she was in the bathroom, Frazier shoved the door open, hitting her with the door, and then removed her iPod and speakers.
Simpson said she told her, “Next time, say excuse me.” At that point the two started to argue, she said.
At one point, she said, Frazier asked her, “Do you want to get choked again?” Simpson said she had never been choked by Frazier.
The argument escalated and at one point moved close to Frazier’s door, she said. Frazier then slammed the door in her face. She said her head “jerked back” as a result. Simpson said she went into her room and took her shoes off. She said she moved back into the hallway of the suite.
That’s when, Simpson said, Frazier, Johnson and Tucker “jumped” her.
It was unclear how the fight stopped. Simpson said she went to her room to get an inhaler, which she uses for asthma. She couldn’t find her inhaler, but she retrieved a pocketknife.
As she choked back sobs, she told the jury about the final moments of Frazier’s young life. She said after Frazier began to hit her again, she started swinging the knife. At one point, she noticed that Frazier had stopped.
“After I saw her stop swinging, I saw her grab her neck and blood was coming out,” Simpson said. “I started to panic. I grabbed my phone to call 911.”
Sobbing, she added, “I didn’t want her to die.”
Simpson said she called her mother, Catrina Simpson, who told her to meet her in Mitchellville at Simpson’s boyfriend’s house. Her mother called an attorney and later, Simpson turned herself in to police, she said. Police found Simpson’s car at her boyfriend’s home, authorities said.
The state argued that Simpson could have left the dorm room or ended the fight, instead of escalating the violence.
“She started the fight and she wanted to end it,” Deputy State’s Attorney Tara H. Jackson told the jury during closing arguments.
The defense argued that the case was one of self-defense.
“You heard Keaira Johnson say in her testimony,” Griffiths said during his closing, “’I don’t think she meant to cut Dominique. It just happened.’”
The knife that killed Frazier was never found.
Ivey said that in eight years as the county’s chief prosecutor, he never had a case like the Simpson case.
“What is unique is you have two college girls who get into a fight and one of them ended up dead,” he said. “I can’t recall ever seeing a case like that before. That might be part of what the jury found compelling, as well, that the defendant is a college student with a self-defense claim that seemed to have some factual support for it.
“She asked to be moved out of that room and the school wouldn’t do it,” Ivey said. “And then eventually she moved out of the room and was staying at home. It did appear that she was trying to avoid the situation prior to this deadly confrontation. That might be part of what they looked at, too.”
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