After stops and starts, trial may begin soon

Problems with witnesses, attorneys have delayed murder case for more than 3 years

April 11, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

It seems as if everything has gone wrong in the 2002 murder case against Tyrone Beane, a young man who, by the age of 17, had been identified by police as the city's "most wanted fugitive."

Beane's prosecution was tripped up three years ago when a star witness went missing for so long that the case was dismissed. Prosecutors found the witness and revived the case, but the murder trial has been postponed a dozen times since then - for reasons ranging from lack of courtrooms to absent attorneys and detectives.

The latest problem to almost derail the case: A missing court folder.

Circuit Judge Paul E. Alpert rejected a defense motion last week to dismiss Beane's charges, even though the court file, including the original, signed grand jury indictment, disappeared years ago. That means the case might finally be ready to go forward as soon as this month.

"They're finding a lot of excuses - I feel like it's never going to go to trial," said Earlene Cox, whose 25-year-old son, Taharka McCoy, was shot to death in the case for which Beane is to stand trial.

Beane's defense attorney, Bryan A. Mobley, said the missing folder is emblematic of a case riddled with procedural problems, such as unnecessary trial postponements and the previous defense attorney failing to enter his appearance.

"Procedurally, this case is just a mess," Mobley said. "It's not being prosecuted diligently."

Prosecutors disagree with Mobley's assessment, saying they are and have been ready to try the case.

"He's throwing it all up there and hoping something sticks," Assistant State's Attorney Gerard B. Volatile said of Mobley. "He's saying what needs to be said to zealously represent his client, but what he's saying is not supported by fact."

Beane has already been sentenced to a 75-year prison term for an attempted murder conviction. If he is convicted of the 2002 murder of McCoy, Beane could be sentenced to life without parole.

But getting to trial in that case has proved difficult.

At least four postponements have been granted because a state witness, such as the homicide detective, was unavailable. Other times, no courtrooms were open or the prosecutor or the defense attorney was tied up with other matters.

It appears that the defense - many times Mobley himself - either requested or joined in a request for at least seven of the postponements.

Another issue is that a previous defense attorney never officially entered his appearance in the case, an oversight that, Mobley said, essentially means Beane was without a lawyer for 20 months.

The previous attorney, Charles Dorsey, testified in a hearing last week that, despite the technicality, he had represented Beane throughout those 20 months.

And the missing court folder could be important because the signed grand jury indictment inside cannot be replicated and, according to Mobley, is a necessity to proceed with charges.

Volatile said a copy of the indictment showing the state's attorney's signature satisfies the legal requirement and that a duplicate court folder contains everything necessary for the trial.

The last clue of the original folder's whereabouts was in May 2003, when a court system notation indicates it should have been sent to a courtroom for a hearing.

"This case has just been on the back burner, back burner, back burner," Mobley said. "It's just not a fair trial at this point."

Known on the streets as "Moochie," Beane began amassing criminal charges as a young teenager - often while being monitored by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

A juvenile justice probation officer admitted at a hearing in 2002 that the department had had trouble keeping track of him. Beane missed 40 of the 49 telephone and in-person check-in appointments with his probation officers and cut off an electronic monitoring anklet.

Meanwhile, Beane's name kept surfacing in connection with serious crimes in East Baltimore. He was accused of killing two people, shooting a third and trying to kill a teenage witness to that crime.

By January 2002, police said it was "imperative" to get Beane into custody. They called him the most sought-after fugitive in Baltimore because he was the only person at the time accused in two separate homicides.

On July 25, 2001, two men were shot in the 1600 block of E. Madison St. Christopher Smith, 17, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Vernon Higgs, 22, was wounded.

On Nov. 5, 2001, three men, including Beane, police said, attacked Fard Myles, 19, in the 1300 block of E. Monument St. Myles was shot, assaulted and left for dead, though he survived.

Before they left, the attackers spotted a 15-year-old witness. Police said Beane put a gun to the girl's head and, urged on by the other two, pulled the trigger four times. The gun malfunctioned and did not fire.

On Jan. 17, 2002, McCoy was shot twice in the chest while standing in the 1200 block of Peachleaf Court.

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