Murder defendant threatens judge

February 15, 1991|By Raymond L. Sanchez | Raymond L. Sanchez,Evening Sun Staff

Shortly after a co-defendant pleaded guilty in the April 19 slaying of a City Jail inmate for his denim jacket, a man charged with robbery and murder in the incident exploded in anger and threatened the judge.

"Just hope I don't ever come back out," Walter E. Hall, 24, said in threatening Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John Carroll Byrnes yesterday.

"You're a racist . . ." Hall, a huge man wearing red shorts and a hooded sweat shirt, told the judge. "Just hope I don't ever come back out. You don't care whether I live or die. I don't care whether you live or die."

Hall, of the 600 block of Edgewood St., is charged with the first-degree murder and robbery of Stephen Isaacs, 21, who prosecutors say was murdered in his cell for $1,500 in jewelry and a rhinestone-studded jacket decorated with a likeness of New York City skyline.

"I didn't do anything to that boy," Hall said during one of his outbursts.

After plea negotiations fell through yesterday, Hall's lawyer, Randolph O. Gregory, argued that his client may not have been criminally responsible for the murder. A court-appointed psychiatrist told Byrnes that Hall has suffered from a personality disorder since age 12. The judge gave Gregory until Tuesday to gather more evidence on his client's mental history.

Gregory also asked the judge to excuse himself from the case because Hall sent Byrnes a "threatening" letter. Byrnes denied the request, saying he "did not take it personally."

Byrnes tried to explain that in the letter, Hall expressed the frustrations of many City Jail inmates. While the judge was talking, Hall, who is black, blurted out: "White man stating white-man speeches."

Hall ignored pleas from his mother, seated in the front row, to control his behavior. After each outburst, Byrnes remained calm and not once cited Hall for contempt of court. "Your tolerance is unique," prosecutor Rex Schultz told the judge.

Byrnes' patience wore thin shortly afterward. He ordered the defendant removed from court.

Co-defendant Johnnie James Jr., 23, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and robbery in the case. Prosecutors will recommend a 15-year prison term to run consecutively with three years James now is serving for gun possession. James, of the 800 block of Payson St., is expected to testify against Hall.

Another co-defendant, Troy L. Jones, 21, of the 2100 of W. Fayette St., pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder and robbery. Prosecutors will recommend an 18-year sentence.

Two other inmates earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.

At the time of the slaying, Isaacs was awaiting trial on an auto theft charge. In jail, he wore a denim jacket studded with rhinestones that "attracted considerable attention" among inmates, Schultz said. The talk was that the jacket was worth more than $1,500.

Schultz gave the following account of the killing:

Shortly before lunchtime April 19, Jones took a blanket and went to Isaacs' cell with James and Hall, who was in jail on a burglary charge. The blanket was placed over Isaacs' head and he was attacked. The inmates took his jacket, three or four gold rings and a watch.

Witnesses told police that Hall allegedly choked the victim and "sat on him repeatedly with great force," Schultz said. An autopsy showed Isaacs died of strangulation.

A City Jail spokeswoman said inmates are given the choice of placing their belongings in storage or keeping them.

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