Judge refuses testimony by Norris at officers' trial

Other witnesses deny that giving informers drugs was authorized

April 04, 2006|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

In a bid to show that unofficial rules in the Baltimore Police Department allowed officers to pay off informants with seized illegal drugs, two officers attempted yesterday to force former police Commissioner Edward T. Norris to testify at their corruption trial.

The effort failed, however, when the presiding judge ruled that Norris, a convicted felon, would not back up the detectives' claims that they had been instructed to bend regulations and, in the eyes of prosecutors, to break the law.

The defense team's unsuccessful move to have Norris testify came as one of several setbacks for detectives William A. King and Antonio L. Murray on the final day of testimony at their joint trial in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors called a half-dozen officers to testify that they received the same specialized training as King and Murray. But each of the officers adamantly denied that the training by New York City undercover officers authorized them to pay their confidential sources with money and illegal drugs they took off the streets.

Earlier, attorneys for King and Murray also failed to persuade the judge to let the jury hear the Stop Snitching DVD, which mentions the officers by name. King and Murray both testified that they were mentioned on the infamous witness-intimidation DVD because they were so successful in cultivating informants.

Closing arguments are set to begin this morning, and the jury could begin its deliberations as soon as this afternoon.

Yesterday, the jury heard for the first time from Murray, who joined the Police Department in 1992 and once was shot in the line of duty.

Mirroring the testimony from King last week, Murray described a violent drug world in which police officers rarely had enough money to compensate their informants properly.

"They are not going to sit out there all day and work for $20," Murray said of the department's standard payment for informant work. "You had to come up with the resources yourself."

Murray admitted that, like King, he seized drugs from several defendants and failed to report the narcotics as evidence. He instead gave the drugs to his former informant, Antonio Mosby, who earlier pleaded guilty to a similar charge and testified against the officers.

Murray's training in May 2003 by the New York City officers, he said, specifically mentioned using seized contraband as a way to reward informants.

Any talk about cash payments to Mosby during hours of secretly recorded conversations by the FBI, Murray explained, was simply a way for the officer to dole out money to informants.

"You couldn't give him everything," Murray said. "We would give him a partial and then he would come back the next day."

In an attempt to rebut the prosecution's argument that Murray acted like a drug dealer, Murray's mother, Maria A. English, testified that the large sums of money found in Murray's bank account came from her cash gifts to him.

"He wasn't a big spender," English said of Murray, who had as much as $40,000 in his accounts. "He would always save a lot."

For a brief, strange moment in the three-week-old trial, the focus turned to Norris, who served federal prison time in 2004 for conspiring to misuse money from a supplemental city police fund.

The judge ordered the jury out of the courtroom before Norris, dressed in a suit and carrying a large leather briefcase, approached the emptied jury box and answered the judge's questions with the assistance of his lawyer.

It was his first time back in the courthouse since his sentencing for what prosecutors described as a scheme to use a police fund to pay for romantic liaisons, lavish meals, hotel stays and gifts. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Norris to six months in prison followed by six months of home detention - months before the FBI started investigating King and Murray.

But any hope of seeing how the former commissioner-turned-radio host would perform was dashed. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled that Norris' possible testimony about rumored and improper police procedures would not be heard by the jury.

"I think his testimony is hearsay," Motz said. "I think his testimony would be immaterial."

Norris told the judge that he would not testify that allowing informants to keep drugs and money was acceptable.

Outside the courtroom, Norris, who also served as Maryland State Police superintendent before his arrest, brushed aside a question about what it was like to be back in the courthouse where he pleaded guilty in March 2004.

"I've moved on," he said.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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