An emotionless Yaw Amoako Frimpong, 25, told jurors he wished he could trade places with his wife. He described hitting Ethel Lee Hicks Frimpong, 35, with the dumbbell, and the arguments that led up to the attack. Frimpong, of 2710 Corbin Court, spoke for more than an hour, calmly answering questions from defense attorney Paul J. Walla and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney William E. Jarvis.
“I got angry. I just lost it, I went to the kitchen and grabbed [the dumbbell],” Frimpong said. “I love my wife, if I could trade places with her, I would. I didn’t mean to take her from her kids. It’d be better for me to die.”
Before calling Frimpong to testify, Walla asked the court to strike the indictment of murder against his client. Walla agrees with the prosecution that Frimpong was responsible for his wife’s death. But Walla has argued several times that his client should be charged with manslaughter, not murder, because the crime was committed in the heat of passion.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Frimpong faces a
maximum life sentence. Second-degree murder is punishable by a maximum sentence of 40 years in jail. Manslaughter is punishable by a maximum sentence of ten years.
Frimpong was originally charged with second-degree murder, but the prosecution is now seeking a first-degree conviction. Walla argued Wednesday that there was “no evidence of premeditation and no evidence supports malice.” Proof of premeditation is necessary to convict a defendant of first-degree murder.
Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. refused to strike the murder charge.
Prosecutors suggested that the time it took Frimpong to get the dumbbell and follow his wife upstairs is evidence of premeditation, supporting a first-degree charge.
Frimpong told the jury that he and his wife of two and a half years had both been drinking the night of her death, and she had been arguing with him. He became angry with her when she told him she would call the police on him and then hit him in the face with a phone, Frimpong said.
But Jarvis questioned Frimpong about multiple discrepancies between his testimony Wednesday and what he told a Prince William police detective July 30, 2002, hours after the killing. Jarvis questioned Frimpong about differences regarding where people were in the home, his level of intoxication, and how many times he struck her.
“No more than three times,” Frimpong said Wednesday.
Yet Dr. Frances Field, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ethel Hicks Frimpong, testified that Mrs. Frimpong had been struck in the head at least seven times. Showing Field a 25-pound dumbbell covered in stains resembling blood, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerrold J. Negin asked if Ethel Frimpong’s “injuries were consistent with her being pounded with that instrument.” Field agreed that the dumbbell could have killed her.
Police and emergency medical technicians responding to 911 calls from Ethel Frimpong’s daughter, and a nurse tending an infant in the Woodbridge home found Ethel Frimpong lying in a pool of blood in an upstairs bedroom. Police found Yaw Frimpong driving his car in the neighborhood shortly afterwards.
Earlier, Walla cross-examined Prince William police Detective Leonard P. Kowalski about his interview with Frimpong. Walla said that parts of the interviews between Kowalski and Frimpong were not in the 32-page transcript he received from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Walla, Jarvis and Negin nearly came to an argument over Walla’s claim that important information from a second interview between Kowalski and Frimpong had not been released to him.
“I must now withdraw. You have called my credibility in question,” Walla said, and began gathering up his materials.
Alston quickly denied Walla’s request to leave the case. He granted a recess where prosecutors played a tape of the second brief interview to Walla. Walla then agreed to continue cross-examining Kowalski, who was the prosecution’s last witness.
Today, Frimpong’s testimony is expected to continue. Closing arguments will be presented after the defense rests its case.
Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.