Prosecutors challenge suicide theory

Montgomery County prosecutors began the second day of the Army Ranger murder trial on Friday by calling close friends of Michael McQueen, the former Ranger who died of a gunshot wound in September 2006.

Gary Smith sat at the defense table in the Rockville courtroom, facing McQueen’s friends as they took the witness stand. Smith is charged with “depraved-heart murder,” a form of second-degree murder.

Prosecutors say that he shot McQueen, 22, in the head at close range with a .38-caliber revolver. The two had served together in Afghanistan and were sharing an apartment in Gaithersburg. Smith’s defense team says that McQueen shot himself in what was a suicide or an accident.

This is where McQueen’s friends came in, one by one.

Prosecutors asked each of them what they made of McQueen’s state of mind shortly before his death when he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Georgia.

One of Smith’s attorneys, Barry Helfand, had made much of a comment McQueen had allegedly made to a police officer at the time of the arrest: “This is the last thing I need on top of all the other s— I have in my life.” Helfand had used the remark as a means of suggesting to jurors that McQueen might have been suicidal.

First on the stand was Rafael Ferrer, who had been a high school football teammate of McQueen’s and who was with him the night of the DUI arrest.

Ferrer testified that McQueen, despite their evening of drinking with a female friend, did not appear impaired behind the wheel. Ferrer said that when he picked McQueen up at the police station the next day, McQueen was flirting with a female police officer.

McQueen looked “like a guy who had a good night that didn’t end that well,” Ferrer said.

Next, prosecutors called Justin Jones, a former Ranger who worked in counterintelligence. McQueen was an intelligence analyst, as was Smith, Jones said.

After McQueen’s DUI arrest, Jones remembered him being “very casual” about the incident.

When Helfand pressed Jones on whether there was ever a time McQueen seemed sad about anything, Jones responded: “Mike was not a sad guy.”

Friend number three was Kahn Sejour, a former Marine. Sejour said he and McQueen spoke by phone shortly before his death.

“He said he was ready to move out” and that Smith “was kind of weird,” Sejour said.

Prosecutors then called two Gaithersburg police officers who had responded to the scene of the shooting, at 414 North Summit Ave.

Officer Joseph Marion II, now an officer in Philadelphia, testified that when he drove up, he saw Smith outside, crying hysterically and covered in blood, repeating “He’s dead! He’s dead!”

Helfand quickly gave the court a number of pictures of Smith, some of which did not show him covered in blood.

Officer Lester Rice then testified that Smith appeared upset and was crying “forcefully” the night McQueen died.

But, he added, “even though he was crying, I didn’t see any tears coming from his eyes.”

Testimony in what is expected to be a 21/2-week trial is to resume Tuesday.