Lie to judge about son's death worth 5 years

March 11, 2009|By PETER HERMANN

Even in Baltimore, the judge noted, the murder of a child still shocks.

So when Frankie L. Taylor stood before Baltimore Circuit Judge Gale E. Rasin last month and told her he had missed his very first meeting with his probation agent on March 24, 2008 - the day after she gave him a break from prison on a drug charge - because his 1-year-old son had been hit in the head by a stray bullet and killed, it "sucked all the oxygen from this courtroom."

Rasin called an immediate recess.

By afternoon, no one could find evidence of a killing. She called Taylor back into the courtroom that afternoon, and he insisted it was true. He offered up a name; a place of birth, Johns Hopkins; and a place for services, March Funeral Home.

Rasin postponed the hearing for a month to check the story.

She ordered his attorney, Patricia Lesnick, to find a birth and death certificate for the child. She called the Medical Examiner's Office. A deputy sheriff called the police homicide unit, checked the Police Department's Web site, pulled files at the crime lab and talked with prosecutors. Newspaper clippings were checked.

Not only was there no child, there was "no such murder," Rasin said when the hearing resumed yesterday.

Nothing in the written record nor ingrained in the city's consciousness, dulled by violence but still cognizant of a child's violent death.

"Everybody remembers the 3-year-old who got killed in the barber chair," Rasin told Taylor, recalling a 1997 killing. "But nobody remembers your story."

Earlier yesterday, Rasin gave a break to a young woman who got caught with drugs and missed her probation hearing because her sister had kicked her out, she had no money for the bus and didn't know what to do. The judge understands that people's lives crash, that addicts have a hard time passing a corner dealer handing out free samples, that tragedy can legitimately intervene.

The killing of a suspect's child on the day he is to report to probation would certainly be a valid excuse.

Rasin said she thought she had heard them all.

"If you had told me that the dog ate your probation papers and you didn't know where to go, I wouldn't have blinked an eye," she said, adding, "My courtroom is the graveyard for poorly conceived inventions."

Back in March 2008, Taylor pleaded guilty to heroin possession and walked out of Rasin's courtroom with probation. Yesterday, about all the 19-year-old's attorney could do was to plead for Rasin to sentence him within the guidelines: one to three years in prison.

There were no more excuses. No apologies for wasting everybody's time. Taylor said nothing as Rasin sent him to prison for five years.

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