In speedy-trial ruling, judge says murder trial can proceed

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

Murder charges against Jason Beau Moody can proceed, a Baltimore judge ruled yesterday, rejecting a defense motion that a nearly three-year delay in the case violated his right to a speedy trial.

Moody is charged with first-degree murder in the July 2003 shooting death of Kevin Shields, 26, in front of Shields' 8-year-old son outside a Northwest Baltimore apartment complex.

Kenneth W. Ravenell, Moody's attorney, called Circuit Judge Althea M. Handy's ruling "inaccurate" based on speedy-trial law and vowed to appeal the decision if his client is convicted in a jury trial. No trial date has been set.

Moody and his girlfriend, Stephanie Madariaga, were charged in Shields' death and arrested in September 2003 as they stepped off a plane returning from the Dominican Republic. Madariaga, 27, who is Shields' ex-wife, pleaded guilty in August 2004 to being an accessory after the fact and agreed to testify against Moody, 31.

Handy said that although "there was a lengthy delay ... there never seemed to be any genuine desire on the part of the defense to go to trial."

The judge said she assessed four factors in making her decision: the length of the delay, the reasons for the delay, the defendant's assertion of his speedy-trial rights and any prejudice to the defendant the delay might have caused.

"When I consider all of the factors and balance them accordingly, I'm going to deny the defense motion," she said.

Prosecutors and the defense argued about the reason for the delay in a hearing this week that included testimony from defense lawyers and prosecutors, who gave opposing versions of what happened.

Ravenell said there was no excuse and that his client had been demanding a trial all along. Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Goldberg said all lawyers involved had been working for years toward a plea deal for Moody that would include his murder charges and federal gun charges unrelated to the killing.

The state murder charges were on hold until December, when federal prosecutors dismissed their case against Moody.

A federal judge ruled in November 2004 - and later refused to reconsider the ruling - that police had illegally seized the key evidence in that case, a gun in Moody's car. The search and seizure was based on an outstanding warrant that, unknown to police, had been invalidated weeks earlier.

James Wallner, the city prosecutor handling the murder charges, testified that the defense "never expressed a desire to go forward with the state case." There was testimony to the contrary from Ravenell and Ivan J. Bates, another defense attorney who had represented Moody.

Handy said yesterday that there "seemed to be an attempt to work things out" and that "it appeared the defendant was acquiescing" to the plan to prosecute the federal case before the state case.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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