Janitor pleads insanity in shooting of teen-ager Attorney for man says client is not competent

September 25, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Albert Sims, accused of gunning down a neighborhood boy this summer in East Baltimore, entered an insanity plea yesterday during a court hearing in which he alternately shouted and wept.

Dressed in camouflage pants, the 77-year-old janitor had to be helped to his feet by his attorney to enter the not-guilty plea before Baltimore Circuit Judge Carol E. Smith. Sims is accused of shooting the boy after someone hurled a rock at his new car.

Sims' attorney, Mitchell A. Greenberg, said his client is not competent to stand trial on first-degree murder and handgun charges. The pleas mean that Sims will be evaluated by defense and state psychiatrists to determine his mental state.

Yesterday, Greenberg said Sims had been seen by doctors who were "convinced" of mental problems but wanted tests to confirm their suspicions. He declined to discuss what the problems were.

"I have a client who has no understanding of what is going on," Greenberg said. "Maybe he's been this way forever. Maybe he [became] this way because of age But the fact is it didn't matter until something occurred."

Sims was the lone occupant of a city block filled with condemned homes. He lived at 1620 Llewelyn Ave. while many others left the crime-ridden block. On the night of July 5, after his house had been broken into several times, Sims fired two shots when a group of neighborhood youths threw a brick at his new Cadillac.

Killed was 15-year-old Jermaine Jordan, a boy whose parents had sent him to military school so he could escape the dangers of the city. Jordan was shot in the back.

The case is nearly identical to a 1994 East Baltimore case in which retired steel worker Nathaniel Hurt fatally shot a 13-year-old boy who was with a group of children vandalizing Hurt's car. Gov. Parris N. Glendening commuted the 65-year-old man's five-year prison sentence in December after he had served 14 months.

Greenberg said yesterday that if he is forced to take his client to trial he will argue that Sims did not mean to kill anyone. When he fired the shots he was not aiming in any specific direction, he said.

Yesterday in court, the only thing Sims knew was that he did not want to be there.

He shuffled into the courtroom, his eyes desperately scanning ,, the crowd for a friendly face. When he saw Greenberg, he cried out with happiness. Then he pleaded: "I want to get out of here."

Greenberg put his hand in the small of Sims back and whispered: "If you talk in here, you can get in trouble."

Moments later, Sims began to cry because his wrists hurt from the handcuffs. A sheriffs deputy then allowed Sims to have his hands cuffed in front of him to ease the pain.

Pub Date: 9/25/98

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