Teen again weathers a shooting charge He won't be tried in teacher's death BALTIMORE CITY

September 08, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A West Baltimore teen-ager who earlier this year beat charges of shooting two downtown hot dog vendors was awaiting his release from jail yesterday after prosecutors decided not to try him on an unrelated murder charge.

Anthony W. Smith, 18, had been identified by witnesses as the man who shot and critically wounded the hot dog vendors during a robbery last summer outside the University of Maryland's Baltimore medical complex.

In March, however, a Baltimore Circuit Court jury found him not guilty on attempted first-degree murder charges.

The judge who presided over the trial later described that verdict as shocking.

After being acquitted in that case, Smith remained behind bars while awaiting trial for murder in the slaying of a 41-year-old city school teacher.

Yesterday, prosecutor Laura Mullally placed that case on the inactive docket.

The last obstacle to Smith's release was also removed yesterday when he pleaded guilty to an another unrelated charge, attempted felony theft of an automobile.

In return for pleading guilty, Smith received a "time-served" sentence of 13 months -- the period he had already spent behind bars while awaiting trial in the teacher's slaying.

The prosecutor said she placed the murder case on the inactive docket because she had insufficient evidence to proceed to trial against Smith and because she does not believe that Smith was the gunman in the teacher's slaying.

"They really had no legal evidence that could convict him," said Gordon Tayback, Mr. Smith's lawyer. Mr. Tayback explained that the state lacked evidence to corroborate the testimony of co-defendant Jacoby "Be-Bop" Bennett, who told police that Smith shot Ervin Nathaniel Brown, a popular mathematics teacher at Winston Middle School. Mr. Tayback said that state law requires corroboration for a co-defendant's implication of another co-defendant.

Barbara Cooper, spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Detention Center, said last night that Smith was still in the institution's custody awaiting the arrival of court papers ordering his release.

The hot dog vendors were shot July 17, 1992 -- three days after the teacher's murder.

Bennett was charged with attempted murder in connection with the shootings of the vendors. When he went on trial in February, testimony showed that he was not the gunman but was the person who ripped the money apron from vendor Mindy Murdza.

Bennett testified that Smith shot the vendors. For his role in the crime, Bennett was convicted of two counts of attempted second-degree murder, armed robbery and other charges.

At Smith's trial a week later, Bennett did not testify, but Ms. Murdza identified Smith as the gunman. Still, the jury found Smith not guilty. Jurors said afterward that prosecutors had failed to prove that Smith was the gunman.

At Bennett's sentencing in April, Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe, Ms. Mullally and Bennett's lawyer, Michael D. Montemarano, expressed their amazement at the jury's verdict in the Smith trial.

Judge Bothe then sentenced Bennett, who was 16 at the time of the vendors' shooting but was tried as an adult, to 60 years in prison.

Bennett went on trial yesterday in the shooting death of Mr. Brown. Ms. Mullally told the jury that Bennett fired the shots that killed the teacher as part of a "horribly botched robbery."

"The defendant didn't see Ervin Brown as a person. He saw him as a target," the prosecutor said.

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