Lawyer may see suspect in killing

January 13, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

Over objections from the Baltimore state's attorney's office, a District Court judge ordered yesterday that public defenders may have access to the man charged with killing a city police officer Tuesday.

The suspect, Brandon Grimes, 21, was wounded in the leg in a shootout with the officer and has been under police guard at St. Agnes Hospital. Police charged him Tuesday with first-degree murder, assault and two handgun violations but have not yet served the arrest warrant.

His mother said that she has not been able to see him and that the hospital would not give her basic information about his condition.

Bridget Duffy-Shepard, a public defender, said Grimes' family requested that he be represented by her office. "This man is unconscious," she said. "Someone needs to protect his interests."

Mark Cohen, the city's top homicide prosecutor, argued that because the warrant had not been served, charges had not been formally filed, meaning Grimes is not considered a defendant and does not have an automatic right to an attorney.

He added that the suspect has not expressed any desire for a lawyer. "It's up to him to say if he wants representation," Cohen argued in court. "From what I'm being told, he's not even communicating with people."

Yesterday's hearing in the 1st District Court on Wabash Avenue was on an emergency appeal by the public defender's office. District Judge Keith E. Mathews imposed a gag order, limiting what prosecutors, police and defense lawyers can say. But the judge also opened the case file to the public, including documents with new details about the shooting that claimed the life of Detective Troy Lamont Chesley in Northwest Baltimore. His funeral is scheduled Tuesday.

Duffy-Shepard requested the gag order, and in documents she filed she objected that a top police official described Grimes as "a murderer" to a local television station. She also objected to police providing the public with their theory of a possible motive.

"Such language prejudices the public from considering the facts of the case," she wrote. "The state's attorney's office has been unable to confine its comments to information contained in the public record." The judge refused to seal her motion.

According to the arrest warrant unsealed in court yesterday, Chesley had finished his shift and was trying to unlock the front door of a West Forest Park home about 1:20 a.m. Tuesday when Grimes walked toward him and began shooting. Police have said that the address is the home of Chesley's girlfriend.

During the ensuing gunfight, Chesley was struck twice in the chest. He returned fire with his department-issued gun and struck Grimes in the leg.

Chesley collapsed on the concrete porch and was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:57 a.m., according to the documents.

The suspect ran behind the home. The detectives found "a blood trail" that ended in the 4500 block of Westchester Road, a block south of the crime scene. The documents said the suspect was picked up by a witness and put in a minivan.

Police also recovered a 9 mm handgun along the blood trail and determined that it was the one used to shoot Chesley, according to the documents.

Police said they learned that Grimes was admitted with a gunshot wound at St. Agnes Hospital. A police review of surveillance footage from the hospital showed two people helping Grimes get out of a dark green minivan, according to the court papers. Homicide detectives interviewed both people and searched the van, where they said they found Grimes' wallet covered in blood.

Charlene Grimes, the suspect's mother, said she and other family members were thrown out of the hospital. Police, she said, threatened to arrest her and other family members for trespassing if they go to the hospital.

Matt Jablow, a police spokesman, would not comment on this allegation because of the gag order. John Welby, a hospital spokesman, said Grimes is in guarded condition. He could not comment on why the mother was not able to get medical information about her son but said: "I think that is about to change."

Charlene Grimes said that the two people with her son that night included a man and a woman and were friends he had met in the past month.

She said she repeatedly has asked the courts for help with her son and has been denied. He has been arrested at least 17 times, according to police records. He has few convictions.

"He's been harassed by the police," she said. "He was pulled over almost every week. Sometimes two or three times a week."

Grimes acknowledged that her son got into trouble. "Everyone kept passing the buck," she said. "When he got locked up, they'd let him out."

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