Change in bail hearings urged after indictment

May 23, 1991|By David Simon

A Baltimore man who was granted bail by a District Court judge after being charged in a 1989 homicide has once again been indicted by a grand jury, this time for allegedly shooting a man 10 times last October while free pending trial on the murder charge.

This month's indictment of 26-year-old Dwight "Knight" Gilmore marks yet another instance in which a district judge's decision to grant bail in a drug-related murder has frustrated city prosecutors and police detectives, who say they are accustomed to seeing most homicide defendants held without bond.

"We didn't know that [Gilmore] was out on bail," said Ilene Nathan, a veteran prosecutor in the violent crimes unit of the Baltimore state's attorney's office. "We only found that out when the second shooting occurred."

Gilmore returned to jail last November when Judge Roger W. Brown of the Baltimore Circuit Court acted on a request by prosecutors to revoke his bail on a violation-of-probation charge filed when Gilmore was first charged with the 1989 slaying. Gilmore was convicted of that murder May 2 and is to be sentenced June 4.

In addition to the charge of attempting to murder David Jones, 20, who was wounded 10 times in a street dispute in October 1990, Gilmore also is a suspect in a September 1990 double-shooting in which one victim died and another was wounded. Those drug-related shootings also occurred while Gilmore was out on bail for the 1989 murder case.

The September double-shooting is still being investigated.

The Gilmore case comes on the heels of two other pretrial releases of city murder defendants.

Last month, Baltimore homicide detectives publicly criticized the decisions of District Court judges, who granted bond to three defendants charged in two unrelated drug slayings.

The first release involved a murder defendant who was already free on bonds totaling $120,000 in four pending cases, including one for attempted murder.

The second release involved a man who was freed on $2,500 bond after being charged with killing a rival drug dealer in an incident in which 70 semiautomatic rounds were fired.

Contending that the release of the two men placed witnesses at great risk, city homicide detectives later arrested both defendants on violation-of-probation warrants issued by Baltimore Circuit Court judges, who then revoked their bonds.

In the wake of those bail releases, detectives urged their superiors and city prosecutors to consider centralizing bail review hearings in one courtroom rather than leaving them to individual District Court judges and district-level prosecutors less familiar with murder cases.

State officials are considering plans for a centralized booking facility and videotaped bail hearings as part of the planned state takeover of the Baltimore City Jail, but those enhancements are slated for 1994, according to Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney of the District Court.

As for limiting bail hearings in murder cases to one city courtroom -- as suggested by homicide detectives -- Judge Sweeney said such a proposal could, if necessary, be independently considered by Joseph A. Ciotola Sr., administrative judge for the Baltimore District Court, and state's attorney Stuart O. Simms.

Judge Ciotola has been on medical leave this month and could not be reached for comment.

In the Gilmore case, prosecutors declined to say whether the defendant's release pending trial in the Sept. 23, 1989, murder of Reginald Robinson -- the result of an argument over money among drug traffickers that ended when Mr. Robinson was shot in the back of the head -- placed prosecution witnesses at risk.

But Ms. Nathan, the prosecutor, acknowledged that an earlier indictment of Gilmore for the attempted murder of Mr. Jones was dropped last year, and the defendant was reindicted this month only after his conviction for the 1989 murder of Mr. Robinson. Because of that conviction, Gilmore can no longer win his freedom on bail.

Gilmore's attorney, Warren Brown, said he understood that the initial indictment in the attempted-murder case was dropped when the victim expressed a reluctance to pursue the matter.

The decision to grant Gilmore pretrial bond was made by District Court Judge Keith E. Mathews, who set bond at $100,000 after listening to the arguments of Gilmore's attorney at a bail review hearing held a week after the defendant's arrest in late March 1990.

Gilmore, who had himself been shot between the date of the murder and his arrest several months later, appeared before Judge Mathews bandaged and braced from his wounds. His attorney said he asked for bail based on his client's condition.

The defense attorney also said he argued that the evidence cited by detectives in the original statement of charges was not overwhelming and that his client had a history of appearing for court dates.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.