Court of Appeal upholds Sean Urbanski’s murder conviction
Maryland’s second highest court on Wednesday approved the condemnation and condemnation of an alleged white supremacist and admirer of Adolf Hitler who murdered a Black Bowie State University student and US Army member one night in May 2017.
Sean Urbansky26, killed the 23-year-old US Army first lieutenant Richard Collins III at a bus stop on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus by stabbing him in the chest with a knife.
There were two eyewitnesses to the crime, Blake Benderthe victim’s white friend, and Amanda Leean Asian woman waiting for a ride at the bus stop during the morning killing.
The circumstances of the murder were not particularly controversial. As Collins, Bender, and Lee waited to catch their respective vehicles, Urbanski approached. Witnesses recalled that he was screaming and sounding angry. He called out something along the lines of, “Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you.” Bender and Lee both stepped aside. Collins did not, and responded “no” when confronted directly by Urbanski, who then stabbed and killed him once.
during the negotiation, the defense based their efforts largely on the fact that Urbanski — who had drunk three to four times past the legal limit — was simply too drunk to premeditate murder. Lawyer John McKenna argued, citing police records, that his client was too drunk not to remember what he had done – and said police needed to show him video of the attack so the aftermath would be registered.
However, the prosecution argued and won with a premeditated theory. Urbanski was eventually convicted of first-degree murder.
Argued by the state, perhaps key to the jury’s conclusions, but certainly key to the defendant’s dismissed appeal, was the introduction of evidence that Urbanski harbored racial hatred against black people.
Evidence presented during the trial showed that the defendant had several racist memes on his phone. He was also a member of a now-defunct racist Facebook group called “Alt-Reich Nation”.
Another member of the group and Urbanski’s longtime friend from high school testified that the memes on the phone were consistent with the type of racist posts shared in the now-defunct group.
Urbanski was also at one point charged with hate crimes. But after his trial was postponed four times – three times at the request of the defense; one to the state – hate crime charges dropped because, judge Laurent Hill established, the state’s theory was “utter speculation”.
Nonetheless, the judge allowed this evidence to be passed to the jury.
Armed with this relevant evidence, the state has pursued the racial hatred stance even without amplifying hate crimes.
prosecutor Jason Abbott Urbanski said at the bus stop “picked the black man,” arguing that it wouldn’t have mattered if Collins had avoided his killer — as Urbanski demanded. He also stated that the defendant “was a member of a Facebook group that paid homage to Adolf Hitler,” which “poisoned his mind.”
DawnCollins, the victim’s mother tearfully testified to the general state of race relations in the United States: “When I found out I was having a boy, I was immediately terrified. A black man in America – oh my God.”
In his appeal, Urbanski’s attorneys argued that introducing the memes and belonging to the “old Reich nation” violated the First Amendment and that the jury should not be allowed to consider such evidence.
Three judges unanimously disagreed.
The judges stated that the memes were not only racially insensitive but extreme, and included suggestions of killing black children.
Out of the opinion:
Notably, the memes weren’t just racially offensive. The memes were not only racist, but encouraged and promoted anti-Black violence through “nab[bing] . . . life points . . . if the [n-word] don’t search[,]” “Blow[ting] the [n-word] infant[,]’ and images saying ‘looking at’ nooses, which has historical significance for the killing of black people in American history.
“Memes depicting anti-Black violence constituted relevant evidence proving the complainant’s intent to have Lt. violently harming Collins,” the statement continued. “Therefore, this court considers that the evidence at issue was admissible to establish motive for first-degree murder and did not violate the applicant’s first amendment rights.”
The state’s conviction comes somewhat poignantly.
During the trial, Collins’ father, Richard Collins Jr. revealed that his own father, Richard Collins Sr.was killed by a white man in 1954.
“He survived the fighting in the Korean War, only to be shot dead walking the streets of his hometown a few months after his honorable discharge,” the grieving father told the jury, the parallels being obvious.
The white man was never prosecuted in this case.
[images: Collins via U.S. Army; Urbanski via University of Maryland Police Department]
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