A Baltimore jury acquitted Kion Marcus Eason yesterday of killing City Cafe owner John P. Darda, but found him guilty of attempted robbery, conspiracy and handgun crimes.
If he receives the maximum penalty for those crimes, he could be sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Assistant State's Attorney Sheryl A. Atkins said through a spokeswoman that jurors, who were questioned after the verdict, said the state proved its felony murder case against Eason "to the letter of the law," but that they did not convict him because "he did not pull the trigger."
Eason, 21, was one of three defendants in the case. His brother Jamaha Eason, 18, admitted last summer that he shot Darda once in the head during a botched robbery attempt Feb. 5, 2001. The day after Eason's admission, Derrick B. Quarles, 21, who worked for Darda and claimed to like him, tearfully admitted he also was guilty of first-degree murder.
Jamaha Eason and Quarles are now serving 40- and 35-year sentences, respectively.
However, Kion Eason, of the 4600 block of Marx Ave. decided to take his chances at trial. His attorney, John L. Calhoun, argued that he was blocks away when his brother killed Darda, 43, a father of three.
"My client didn't want anybody to get killed," Calhoun said. "My client did not intend for anybody to get killed. My client did not know his brother had a handgun."
And he also appealed to the consciences of the jurors. "It would be a crime to convict him of a murder," he said.
Calhoun's theory appeared to contradict statements Eason made to detectives. In a taped interrogation, Eason laid out the plan to ambush Darda in an alley during his weekly bank run from the popular cafe on West Eager and Cathedral streets. His role was to drop his brother off near the cafe, and then pick him up afterward.
Eason also said Quarles called him the morning of the murder to tell him Darda was ready to go to the bank, and that he later brought the murder weapon to a friend's house because "it was hot."
During her closing statement yesterday, prosecutor Atkins said Eason's participation in the crime was tantamount to pulling the trigger.
"But for Kion Eason's plan to conspire with his brother, that shot would have never been fired," she said.