Killers' childhood called not wanting

Witness also lived in Lexington Terrace

April 08, 2004|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A day after attorneys for Michael L. Taylor and Keon D. Moses argued that the men's hardscrabble childhood in a West Baltimore public housing development should spare them a federal death sentence, a key witness for the government testified yesterday that the two never seemed to him to be wanting.

Aaron Butler, who also spent part of his childhood in the Lexington Terrace apartments, said he met Taylor and Moses about a decade ago, when Taylor was 10, Moses was 11 and Butler was 13. Life in the high-rises then was filled with danger and drug dealing, but Butler said that from his vantage, Taylor and Moses were not the worse for it.

If anything, Butler said, Moses seemed to benefit from an older uncle's well-known drug-dealing operation.

"He used to have stuff we couldn't get," Butler testified yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "He used to just be a little more dressed, a little more up-to-date. ... Back then, he was like the little dude who had everything. It was like his peoples could get him whatever he wanted."

Butler, now 23, said he knew that Taylor and Moses had mothers who were drug addicts and fathers who were absent. But he testified that Taylor seemed to be well cared for by an aunt who worked at a shop in the Gallery mall downtown and gave her nephew spending money "to go to the movies, eat, whatever," Butler said.

"I just knew his aunt took care of him. She took care of him real good," Butler said of Taylor. "She made sure he had clothes, that he got his [high school equivalency degree]. ... She bought him a car."

Taylor, 20, and Moses, 21, were convicted last week on federal drug conspiracy and weapons violations in connection with a string of homicides and shootings that authorities said were carried out to protect the territory of a violent drug gang, the Lexington Terrace Boys.

A jury must decide whether Taylor and Moses should receive a sentence of death or life in prison without parole. Attorneys for both men told jurors Tuesday that their clients are products of broken homes and of one of Baltimore's poorest and most violent public housing developments.

Defense attorneys for Moses said their client largely raised himself, frequently showing up at school in soiled clothing and with untreated cavities in his mouth. Taylor's attorneys told jurors how he had lived until age 10 in a crowded Lexington Terrace apartment until the family was evicted for nonpayment of rent and Taylor went to live with his aunt.

In the two-month trial, defense attorneys attacked Butler's credibility - portraying him as a wily, street-wise thug willing to say what he had to to stay out of prison.

Yesterday, Butler made clear in later testimony the extent of his falling out with Taylor. Butler testified that after he learned that Taylor was accused of killing two friends from the neighborhood in December 2001, Butler was prepared to kill Taylor in revenge but that Taylor instead wound up jailed and facing federal charges.

"If it would have come to that, it would have come to that," Butler said.

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