Jurors in the trial of Eugene Dale said they were relieved when the judge told them the man they had just convicted of raping and murdering a 12-year-old girl two years ago had raped before.
For some, however, the relief they felt at having their judgment confirmed was coupled with anger that the verdicts -- guilty of first-degree felony murder, second-degree rape and a handgun violation -- necessarily delivered in ignorance of Dale's previous conviction, will enable him to escape the death penalty.
The state's quest for the death penalty was thwarted by the second-degree rape conviction. Under the state's death-penalty statute, the murder must have been committed during a rape in the first degree, in which a weapon or physical force is used to overcome the victim. Dale now faces a maximum penalty of life without parole when he is sentenced in city Circuit Court Nov. 27.
The jury of six men and six women, in a second day of deliberations, convicted Dale of committing the crimes against Andrea Perry, who was raped and shot in the head Oct. 12, 1988.
Dale, 33, of the first block of S. Gilmor St. in West Baltimore, already is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years for raping a 13-year-old girl Oct. 29, 1988, using the same .32-caliber revolver that killed Andrea.
"I am angry," one of the jurors, a 23-year-old clerk, said last night. "Perhaps he deserved the death penalty. He goes out and does this to another little girl. This is a sick person. He doesn't belong in society."
"It was a big relief because we know we arrived at the right decision," said a 51-year-old juror. "The only thing we did was take the death penalty from him and I'm a little bit unhappy about that."
Jurors said there was no evidence to suggest that Dale displayed the gun during the rape. Medical testimony showed that there was no visible trauma to the girl's body or genital area.
"Ms. Perry's autopsy showed no scrapes or anything to prove that it was rape by force," one juror said. "We had to figure that maybe she consented to sex or the gun wasn't used."
Judge Elsbeth Levy Bothe ruled that the second-degree rape conviction was not enough to proceed to the penalty phase of the trial. Prosecutor Donald J. Giblin argued that she was "mistaken" and asked the judge to give the state until Monday to prepare a memorandum on the law.
The law says a defendant is eligible for the death penalty if a murder occurs "while committing or attempting to commit a robbery, arson, rape or sexual offense in the first degree." Giblin argued that the words "in the first degree" apply to sex offense, not rape.
"An appellate court . . . cannot conceivably let a comma send a man to death," Bothe said in denying Giblin's request for a hearing. "I cannot see any possibility that this court could hold the penalty phase of this proceeding."
Giblin later called the convictions a "vindication of the state's case and a vindication of the DNA evidence," genetic evidence that defense lawyer M. Cristina Gutierrez sought to discredit during the trial.
Ella Thompson, 40, Andrea's mother, said she was satisfied with the verdicts. "As long as he never walks the streets again and hurts somebody else's child I'm happy," she said. "Justice was served."
Asked about the state's unsuccessful bid for the death penalty, she said: "I know God will take care of it. I leave it in his hands. Maybe I can sleep tonight."
A seventh-grader at Harlem Park Middle School, Andrea was on her way home after walking her sister to a bus stop when she was taken into a trash-strewn alley off the 1800 block of W. Baltimore St. and raped and killed.
Ballistic experts testified that a .32-caliber Harrington & Richardson revolver found in a closet in Dale's home was used to kill the girl. Detectives and Dale's friends testified that Dale weaved together as many as six different versions of what happened to Andrea the night she was murdered.
DNA tests of sperm found in the girl matched Dale's blood, genetic experts testified. But defense experts raised questions about the quality of those tests and the lab that conducted them.
When Andrea was slain, Dale was on parole for a 1979 attempted rape and handgun violation, for which he had served eight years.