Jury finds man, 23, guilty in killing of city officer

Grimes could get life without parole plus 20 years

August 30, 2008|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

After deliberating a little more than three hours over two days, a Baltimore jury yesterday found Brandon Grimes, 23, guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of city police officer and father of five Troy Lamont Chesley Sr.

Grimes, who was also convicted yesterday of illegal gun possession and using a handgun to commit a violent crime, could receive a combined maximum sentence of life in prison without parole plus 20 years, said Joseph Sviatko, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21.

"It's over, Troy, it's over," Chesley's mother said outside the courtroom.

"It took 19 months," Joyce Chesley said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, relatives clinging to her side. Above her heart, she wore a pin adorned with her son's photo. "I'm glad it's over."

Prosecutors said Grimes shot Chesley, 34, twice in the chest as he tried to unlock the front door of his Forest Park apartment on Fairfax Road in the early hours of Jan. 9, 2007. The detective, who had just finished working a late shift, returned fire, wounding Grimes in the leg.

"The bottom line is, this case is not over, this is step one," said Grimes' attorney, Roland Walker, who "unquestionably" plans to appeal the verdict.

The two-week trial drew widespread attention for several reasons: An officer was involved, and Grimes had never served substantial prison time, despite more than 17 arrests. He's currently facing charges in two unrelated cases involving a carjacking and a handgun violation.

As the trial began last week, city officials acknowledged that DNA samples at the city's crime lab had been contaminated by employees' genetic material. Walker mounted the first of what will likely be a spate of challenges to evidence processed by the lab. After a manual check of the evidence in the Grimes case, the city lab discovered that one sample prosecutors presented as evidence had been contaminated by a lab employee's DNA.

"Were I on the jury, I would have completely discounted any reference to the DNA evidence in this case, it was so rifled with problems," Walker said. "Had [the jury] looked closely at [the evidence] and studied it and carefully considered it, I don't think they could have arrived at this verdict."

However, the prosecutors also presented witnesses who put Grimes at the scene of the crime, as well as other physical evidence.

Paul M. Blair Jr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police said he was "ecstatic" with the Circuit Court jury's verdict.

"It was a senseless murder, a senseless murder," he said yesterday.

"To have worked those years ... dedicated to getting [criminals] off the streets and to be brutally murdered by someone who probably should have been in jail years ago? It was senseless. The system finally caught up, and justice was done," Blair said. "This man will never again endanger anyone in the rest of his life."

Blair praised the jury for discounting the contamination questions. Members "saw right through the defense attorney," he said.

Grimes testified on his own behalf Thursday, saying he was hit by a stray bullet while waiting for a friend to pick him up, contradicting testimony of two earlier witnesses who placed Grimes in the area with a gun. Prosecutors pointed to Chesley's bullet in Grimes' leg as evidence that he was involved in the officer's killing.

The decision to put Grimes on the stand was one of the most difficult of Walker's career, the attorney said.

"He's not an intellectual giant, he's just an inner-city kid," Walker said, acknowledging the inconsistencies in Grimes' statements, which he also said were explainable.

Wearing a yellow button-down shirt, baggy jeans and black sneakers, Grimes' appeared unmoved as officers led him from the courtroom yesterday morning, both his hands and feet in shackles.

"He didn't appear to be stunned at all," Walker said. "I think he may have expected it."

Grimes was followed by Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Wiggins, who prosecuted the case and said he couldn't comment until after sentencing.

Wiggins stood in the hall outside Judge Timothy J. Doory's courtroom as Chesley's family and friends streamed past, stopping to embrace Wiggins or shake his hand.

Kimberly Beasley, Chesley's former girlfriend and the mother of one of his sons, who is now 13, shed tears of relief outside the courtroom.

"I had no doubt what the verdict would be, no doubt," she said, then turned to her cell phone and shouted the news: "He's guilty!"

Chesley, who went by the nickname T-Roy, signed up for the police academy three years after graduating from City College high school in 1990; he was a member of the Baltimore police force for 13 years. During his tenure, he was commended for saving a woman from a burning house and chosen to work in an undercover narcotics unit. He was noted for his skill in dealing with informants.

During his funeral service, Chesley's supervisor described him as a "highly motivated, energetic person" and the "ultimate team player - a partner anyone would be proud to have."

In a letter once written to his mother, Chesley credited her with turning her two boys into "productive men."

"My son was a detective" Joyce Chesley said yesterday. "And he did a good job."

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

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