The city's youngest murder suspect this year admitted yesterday to the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man in a Park Heights public housing project, receiving a sentence that will keep him locked up for seven years, until he turns 21.
Smiling at a fellow defendant as he entered the chambers of Baltimore Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy, the 14-year-old showed no emotion during the hearing, uttering "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to the judge's questions.
"Do you understand that you are charged with murder in the first degree ... and that you did so with the intent to deprive the life" of another person, Gordy asked the youth.
"Yes, sir," the boy replied, in admitting to the first-degree murder and handgun charges at the Juvenile Justice Center on Gay Street.
Gordy ordered that the Northwest Baltimore youth be placed in one of two out-of-state facilities - in Buhl, Minn., or in Memphis, Tenn. - or an equivalent facility.
Wearing a white T-shirt tucked into oversized khakis, he stared blankly as the victim's mother spoke about the pain she has experienced since her only son, Jerrod Hamlett, was fatally shot June 25, leaving behind a now 3-year-old son.
"How can you explain to a baby?" asked Julis Hamlett between sobs. "I can't go get [his father], and he asks me this all the time."
"You can talk to your mother, but I'll never be able to see my son," she said to the youth. "All I can do is give him flowers."
As she spoke, the youth's mother wiped away tears.
Prosecutors say the boy - whom The Sun is not identifying because he was charged as a juvenile - shot Hamlett four times over a spat about thrown bottles.
Assistant State's Attorney Janet S. Hankin said Hamlett and his girlfriend were sitting outside of a Park Heights public housing complex June 25 when he asked the then 13-year-old to stop throwing bottles. A confrontation ensued and the boy left.
He and a friend returned later in the day with bandannas covering their faces. The friend gave a gun to the youth, who shot Hamlett repeatedly.
"Shoot him," Hankin quoted someone saying to the boy.
"He said he couldn't. He said he ran out of bullets," Hankin said.
Hamlett was shot in the chest, left wrist, and each thigh.
The boy was linked to a violent drug gang known as "Cutthroat," according to internal police reports obtained by The Sun.
The documents show that police surveillance found that four boys - all age 16 and under - were being directed by two men in selling crack cocaine out of apartments at or near the Oswego Mall apartments.
Had he been 14 at the time of the shooting, the boy would have been charged as an adult and faced charges that could have sent him to prison for life.
In a hearing last month, Gordy declined to transfer the case to adult court. At that hearing, it was revealed that the juvenile had been arrested six times in 18 months and was on probation for two previous assaults.
Evaluations referenced in court showed that he displayed aggression that led to school suspensions, and was impulsive, easily frustrated and apt to strike out. He had last attended seventh-grade at Pimlico Middle School, where he had truancy and behavioral problems, records show.
The boy's attorney, Rodney Gray, said both Minnesota's KidsPeace Mesabi Academy and Tennessee's Shelby Training Center have space for his client.
Gray said even though the boy did not address the victim's family in court, he has expressed remorse. "What he wants is to get this case over with and to move on," said Gray. "He and his mom are satisfied with his being treated as a juvenile. It gives this kid some opportunity for a life as an adult."
But Hamlett's family - who sat in the back of the courtroom, shaken and at times sobbing - said they are angry that the boy would get little punishment. They are angry that they lost a son and father, brother and nephew.
"It's ridiculous, the injustice," said Raquel Hamlett, 17, the victim's sister. "This was not self-defense. It was pre-meditated murder. He wanted to do it. He wanted to be a man and carry and shoot a gun, so why didn't they charge him as a man?"
Raquel Hamlett said she wasn't upset that the boy didn't address them in court when given the opportunity.
"What can he say?" she asked. "`I'm a murderer'? He said that. That's what he said today."