The black teenager who authorities said was beaten in a neighborhood watch case in Baltimore that drew comparisons with the Trayvon Martin shooting refused to testify Wednesday from the witness stand, prompting the judge ultimately to excuse him.
It's not yet clear how the loss of the key witness will affect the prosecution's case.
Brothers Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim, who are Jewish and white, are accused of beating the teen while patrolling for an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood watch group Nov. 19, 2010. Their bench trial opened Wednesday on charges of second-degree assault, false imprisonment and carrying a deadly weapon.
The victim, now 16, cried as he mumbled responses to some of Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins' questions. The teen testified that he was walking to the bus stop from his grandmother's home to go to a doctor's appointment that day, but he said didn't make it because two men in a red car approached him, looked at him wrong and told him he was not supposed to be there. At times, the teen did not answer and bent over to put his head in his lap.
In the afternoon, his responses were even less audible, and eventually he stood up while attorneys approached Judge Pamela White's bench for a conference.
"I don't want to testify," he said. "I want to drop charges."
White said the state brought the charges and that it was not his decision to drop them.
Wiggins asked the teen if the reason he didn't want to testify was because he lied or because the incident didn't happen. The teen replied that he just didn't want to testify. After talking the situation over with the teen, the judge excused him.
The defense objected to the playing of a recording of the teen's 911 call after the teen was excused because the defendants would be unable to confront their accuser. The judge denied that motion and listened to the call, in which the teen tells the operator he had been cracked on the head with a walkie-talkie and was bleeding.
A day earlier, the brothers withdrew a motion to move the trial because comparisons to the Trayvon case would make it hard for them to get a fair trial. They opted for a bench trial, saying they believed a judge could conduct a fair trial.
In the Florida case, authorities charged neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman this month with second-degree murder in Trayvon's death Feb. 26. Zimmerman claims self-defense, but Trayvon's family says he targeted the unarmed teen because the teen was black.
In opening statements Wednesday, Wiggins told the judge that after two men in the car stared at him and told him he didn't belong there, the teen, then 15, armed himself with a board as the car left.
When the car returned, Wiggins said the teen dropped the board before Eliyahu Werdesheim grabbed him and Avi Werdesheim hit him in the head with a radio. As the teen reached in his pocket for his cell phone, Wiggins said, a third person, who arrived in a van, stepped on his hand.