Murder-for-hire convict lashes out Man gets life sentence in '81 murder, says he was set up.

January 07, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

It started with contract killer Zack D. Mayhew's one-word rejection of the Baltimore County Circuit Court jury's guilty verdict and it finished with a long speech by Mayhew about how he had been set up by the police and wrongly convicted.

When Amanda Bull, Mayhew's public defender attorney, was describing his acceptance of the jury's verdict yesterday, Mayhew shook his head and told her, "No."

The just-convicted defendant then directed his comments at the judge.

"This is a crock," Mayhew, 40, told Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. yesterday, when asked if he had anything to say before Murphy passed sentence. "This is the phoniest conviction there ever was."

Mayhew went on to criticize the two police detectives who tracked a witness down 10 years after Mayhew murdered an Essex man for $2,000. Mayhew criticized Jason League, the prosecutor, for allegedly trying to coerce a prisoner into giving false testimony against Mayhew.

Mayhew, dressed in a baby blue windbreaker, stone-washed blue jeans and white tennis shoes, spoke at length, just after the jury had pronounced him guilty of the contract killing of Joseph Jackson on April 28, 1981.

But in the end, Murphy was not impressed with Mayhew's exhortations, handing the former construction worker a sentence of life in prison, which the judge said must run consecutive to the 25-year-term without parole that Mayhew already is serving for burglary.

"That's the nature of Mr. Mayhew," League said afterward. "It's everybody's fault but his own. . . . He's clearly a very dangerous man, and Judge Murphy's sentence was clearly the appropriate one."

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for slightly more than four hours before finding Mayhew guilty. The trial lasted three days.

In closing arguments, League had outlined the state's circumstantial case against Mayhew, a man who became a suspect after his sister, Linda Weitzel, called police in September 1982 to say her brother had told her he had killed someone for $2,000.

Weitzel, who was on the witness stand Friday, said she couldn't remember much of what she said back then. She told police in 1982 that Mayhew described killing a man at the request of a police officer.

She said her brother had not told her the name of the police officer or the victim, but had described in detail how the murder was done. Those details match the murder of Jackson, League said.

Jackson was shot once in the back with a shotgun as he walked from his home in the 2100 block of Riverview Road in Essex.

His next-door neighbor, Robert F. Ewing, 45, a former city police officer who had a running feud with Jackson, immediately was suspected, but he had an alibi. He was drinking at a nearby tavern when the murder happened.

Carol Smith, Jackson's girlfriend at the time, heard the gunshot and rushed out to see what happened, she testified. Jackson was on the ground bleeding to death, but Smith didn't see any gunman fleeing down Riverview Road, nor did neighbors who came outside to see what had happened.

In Linda Weitzel's 1982 statement to police, she said her brother had told her he got $1,000 before the murder and began watching the victim to learn his habits. He then waited for the man, who lived near the water, outside his home. He shot him once, then fled by going out on the water on a raft he had made.

In closing, League said the waterway escape explained why no one in the neighborhood saw anything suspicious.

"The way to flee is to go by way of the water," he said.

In her closing arguments, Bull emphasized that police never found any evidence linking Mayhew to the scene, and she called into question the testimony of Al Sievers, a racetrack buddy of Ewing and Mayhew who had given Mayhew's phone number to Ewing, who now is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

Sievers, the witness found by police detectives in 1990, had testified that Mayhew owed him a favor because Sievers had bought Mayhew a drink and given him money to place a bet.

"Would one become so soiled in murder for so little?" Bull said. "For a drink? That's absurd.

"Mr. Sievers is protecting Mr. Sievers. Mr. Sievers may also be protecting someone else."

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