Judge denies teen's request to be tried as juvenile in killing

Baltimore youth accused of man's death is called `a risk to public safety'

November 06, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A 15-year-old Baltimore youth accused of first-degree murder had his request to be tried as a juvenile turned down by a city Circuit Court judge yesterday.

Judge Lynn K. Stewart denied the motion by Eric Brown to transfer his adult murder charges to juvenile court, saying the youth was accused of too serious a crime, was a threat to public safety and had turned his back on other efforts to help turn his life around.

"This is the worst of the worst," Stewart said of the accusations against Brown.

"When you commit a heinous offense and are a risk to public safety," the judge added, "you go to jail. That's what the law says."

Assistant Public Defender David Pyle declined to comment after the hearing as his client was led from the courtroom. Prosecutor Julius A. Silvestri Jr. said the judge had made the correct decision after weighing the facts of Brown's past and the serious nature of the crime. The teen is accused of fatally shooting a man he didn't know.

Brown is one of about 400 juveniles charged as adults with serious offenses in Baltimore every year, according to prosecutors. Under state law, judges have the choice of sending most such youths to the juvenile system after weighing a variety of factors in their case.

Yesterday's hearing rippled with emotion when the mother of the victim spoke to Stewart about the pain she has endured since the death of her son, 24-year-old Derrick L. Carmon.

Brown, whose trial is scheduled for next month, is accused of fatally shooting Carmon in the face April 29. Police said Brown was called to the scene as muscle during an eviction and opened fire just after telling his friend to step away from Carmon during a fight.

"It just doesn't make sense," said Carmon's mother, Valorie Pope, between tears. "He didn't care about my son. ... He had no right to take his life."

Much of the hearing dealt with Brown's past. Brown was examined by a speech pathologist last week at the public defender's request and testified that the teen-ager had a low IQ, was illiterate and had difficulty speaking or understanding what people told him.

The speech pathologist, Martha Bertin, said, "It's very difficult for him to understand a lot of nuance of language. ... It is very difficult for him to understand a lot of things that are said to him," and it is "very difficult for him to follow directions."

Bertin said that Brown would benefit from a structured education program and could eventually read at a third-grade level. Brown might also suffer from lead poisoning, she added.

At a September hearing, Stewart asked Pyle to find places that could treat Brown and gather information about his mental state. Pyle said yesterday that he had contacted several programs, a few out of state, but that they rejected his client.

Saying that the Department of Juvenile Services had let down his client by not properly treating him in the past and that Brown had lived in terrible conditions at home, Pyle urged Stewart to transfer Brown to the juvenile system.

"With a long-term, highly structured placement, he would do well," Pyle said.

Silvestri countered that the juvenile justice system had offered Brown a wealth of chances. The 15-year-old had been arrested several times on juvenile charges including robbery and assault but had run away from programs and cut off an electronic monitor so he could hang out with his friends on the streets, Silvestri said.

According to a court psychological report, Brown said he had been selling $900 worth of marijuana a night before his arrest.

The system "offered him many, many, many options -- all of which have been rejected" by Brown, Silvestri said.

Silvestri described Carmon's death and how Brown, then 14, is accused of bringing a gun to the scene. He said Brown had the chance to go home before the shooting.

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