Pleas from the attorney, family and friends of a 17-year-old murderer saved him from a life without parole sentence yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court.
Before sentencing Nigel Antonio Carter, Judge Christian M. Kahl said he had intended to side with prosecutor Steve Bailey's recommendation that Carter never be freed for "executing" a young woman on a footpath near Owings Mills Mall. Instead, Judge Kahl gave Carter life plus 40 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole after serving at least 20 years.
The youth, dressed in a red, white and blue jogging suit and wearing new white sneakers, stood impassively as the sentence was pronounced. He offered no comments. His mother cried quietly behind him.
At his January trial, one of Carter's cousins delivered perhaps the most damning evidence -- that Carter confessed to "capping" a woman because she gave him "a rough way to go" when he robbed her.
Carter was convicted of robbing and killing Christina Marie Brown, 28. He shot her in the back of the head with a .357-caliber Magnum pistol as she walked the secluded path from her job at the mall to the Owings Mills metro station on the rainy afternoon of Sept. 25.
Yesterday, Carter's family told the judge that the youth is not a neglected child of Baltimore's mean ghetto streets. His mother and father raised him, even though they divorced when he was 2. Between them, the couple have put in 68 years working for Baltimore City.
A neighbor couple described Nigel as a polite youth with good manners. They said they'd be happy today to let him date their teen-age daughter. His first cousin said she would trust him with her young children, who love him.
His mother, Carolyn, 50, said he cheerfully cooked, cleaned house and cared for her when she was bedridden for months TC after an injury two years ago. She also said she was proud to pay for her son's lawyer, proud to own her house and car, and had tried to teach her son strong values.
Defense attorney Gerald A. Kroop stood with his hands on 6-foot, 2-inch Nigel's broad shoulders and called his client a "child." Carter will be 18, the age of adulthood under criminal law, June 28.
Mr. Kroop argued that a 17-year-old with no criminal convictions and supported by a loving family and friends should have some hope, some chance to win parole. Mr. Kroop considered the sentence a victory.
Craig Brown, the victim's uncle, saw it differently.
"There's a verdict, but there is not a victory," he said, noting that nothing will bring his niece back to life. Her family, he said, is just beginning to deal with the devastation caused by her murder.
Still, Mr. Brown sympathized with Carter's family, despite knowing Carter never expressed remorse or concern for his victim and continues to insist he is innocent.
Mr. Bailey said he was "not disappointed" by the sentence. He tried to balance the defense's arguments by mentioning that Carter was arrested last year for armed robbery and drug dealing. Carter was not convicted of those crimes.
He also mentioned a state psychologist's report that said Carter, a high school dropout, was "aggressive, angry and hostile . . . manipulative and potentially explosive."
Carter, who lived with his mother in the 2300 block of N. Rosedale St., was picked up by police Oct. 7. After confessing, he led police to Ms. Brown's discarded purse.
Carter told police he gave the gun to his father, George Carter, 61, who disposed of it. The gun was never found.
Mr. Kroop claimed police "tricked" Carter into confessing. Yesterday, he said he already has prepared an appeal.