A rare federal death penalty trial is expected to get under way this week against the reputed leaders of a West Baltimore gang believed to be responsible for at least six city homicides and dozens of shootings. The case marks the first time in more than five years that U.S. prosecutors here will ask a jury to recommend a death sentence.
The government's case against the leaders of the gang known as the Lexington Terrace Boys is replete with street violence and episodes of retaliation against potential witnesses. In one instance, the gang is accused of fatally shooting a man to prevent him from testifying about a double homicide.
Prosecutors have filed notice that they intend to seek the death penalty against two defendants in the case: Keon D. Moses, 20, also known as "Black," and Michael Lafayette Taylor, 18, whose street nickname is "Mike Mumbles."
Moses and Taylor were indicted more than a year ago, along with Aaron "Turk" Foster, 23, on charges of using a firearm to commit murder as part of a drug conspiracy, which can bring a federal death sentence. The men also face charges of drug trafficking, carjacking and witness tampering.
In a separate indictment, Foster and Taylor face charges that could bring the death penalty for Foster and the rare predicament for Taylor of a second federal death penalty trial after his first concludes.
The trial could last two months. The last federal death penalty trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore was in 1998, when a jury rejected a death sentence for convicted drug lord and killer Anthony Jones.
The Lexington Terrace case is expected to start Wednesday with jury selection, a process that could take a week or more.
Among the killings that authorities attribute to the Lexington Terrace Boys is the slaying of Robert "Snoop" McManus, who was fatally shot execution-style as he crossed Mount Street on Feb. 22, 2002. Prosecutors say the killing was designed to prevent McManus from testifying in Baltimore City Circuit Court about a double homicide that occurred the previous year.
That incident, on Sept. 23, 2001, left 23-year-old Ronald Harris and 30-year-old Gregory Spain dead. Another man, Charles Brockington, 22, was wounded in the shootings in the basement of a rowhouse in the 300 block of Calhoun St.
Moses was charged with two murder counts in the deaths of Harris and Spain. He was acquitted of all charges after a state jury trial in April 2002.
Federal authorities said in court papers that in the months before Moses' trial, the Lexington Terrace Boys also attempted to kidnap and intimidate another potential witness, Samuel Carlos Wilder, who escaped unharmed and who was expected to serve as a central witness in the subsequent federal prosecution.
But Wilder was fatally shot in June in an alley behind the 1500 block of Saratoga St. Wilder, 20, was under a federal material witness warrant and electronic home monitoring at the time of his death to ensure his testimony in the Lexington Terrace case, but authorities have not said that any evidence links his death to the case.