By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Last September Ballou High School running back Jamal Speaks seemed to have the world in his hands. He was a highly touted running back who was a key component to the defense of their DCIAA championship and appeared to be on his way to a college scholarship.
However, after Speaks was removed then reinstated from the team when he was homeless his life took and ugly turn and he was charged with taking the life of his girlfriend then trying to cover it up last week.
Prince George’s County Police arrested 19-year-old Jamal Speaks and charged him with first degree murder and second-degree murder along with assault and weapons charges in the death of 18-year-old Saniyah Floyd. Floyd was found suffering from a gunshot wound in a bedroom of a house in the 13000 block of Buchanan Drive in Fort Washington around 10:30 p.m. April 7.
Speaks reportedly was playing with the weapon after he illegally purchased it that afternoon. Law enforcement authorities don’t believe that he intended to kill Floyd, but did try to cover it up by making it look like she had committed suicide. However, after their investigation and the subsequent autopsy, evidence proved otherwise. He is being held without bond currently.
“Initially, responding officers and detectives were advised by witnesses that the victim accidentally shot herself,” according to the statement on the Prince George’s County police blog. “An autopsy revealed that her wound could not have been self-inflicted, and the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.”
The first and second degree charges could bring 25 years to life in prison. First-degree murder in Maryland is defined as deliberate, premeditated (previously considered) and willful killing of a human being committed by lying in wait for a victim, by poisoning or while committing or attempting any violent felonies.
Maryland Criminal Code 2-204, makes it illegal to commit any murder even if it was not premeditated, willful or deliberate. The fine line between second degree murder and manslaughter lies with the intent of the convicted.
While it appears that this may have been a fatal mistake and not malicious, the wide range of charges could make it difficult for Speaks to prove his innocence to the lesser counts as the case will be tried in Maryland. After the crime, which he admitted his involvement in, Speaks reportedly was not initially forthcoming with law enforcement authorities which under the state’s law wouldn’t allow for manslaughter charges.
Speaks was offered a scholarship to play college football at Temple University, but according to their website he never signed his national letter of intent during the early signing period last fall. He had become a sympathetic figure when he was forced to miss football games following a discrepancy with his address because he was homeless.
Last September Speaks was emerging as one of the top running backs in in the D.M.V. He was allowed to remain enrolled in school, though he couldn’t play until the residency concerns were resolved. Athletic eligibility questions based on address verification following was a common practice used by coaches against players for years in the D.C. high school sports. However, the suspension occurred after an investigation by the D.C. State Athletic Association.
Speaks, who was a night school student, was initially told he couldn’t play in August, However, with the help of his godmother, they successfully appealed the decision via the D.C. State Athletic Association and he was ultimately reinstated. After his story went viral he was able to secure housing and $20,000 from Go Fund Me donations online.
According to WUSA 9, an obituary for Floyd said she was a graduate of Central High School and leaves fraternal twin sister and several siblings.