Acquittal in officers' attempted murder

March 22, 2009|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,

A man accused of attempting to kill two undercover Baltimore police officers in 2005 was acquitted by a city jury of all charges last week - four years after a judge declared a mistrial in the case because a juror said she had made up her mind from the start.

After the mistrial, federal and Baltimore prosecutors divided the case against William Floyd Crudup, sending ammunition and drug-possession charges to the federal courts. Crudup, 29, is now serving 11 years in federal prison for possessing 12 bags of cocaine when he was arrested in the March 2005 double shooting on Elmley Avenue.

But before that case was heard, Crudup's federal public defender set about trying to knock out his prior convictions on gun, drug and assault charges, so that a federal judge could impose a lower sentence should he be convicted in the new case. Crudup's efforts failed, but the process took two years.

And by the time prosecutor Jenifer Layman found a courtroom to retry the case of the shooting of officers Andrew Lane and Joseph Banks, at least one witness couldn't remember very much, defense attorney Catherine Flynn said.

"Their evidence was insufficient - they just didn't prove it," Flynn said. "There wasn't that much physical evidence."

The state still had its star witness in the attempted-murder case - a man who testified in the first trial that Crudup had confessed to shooting Lane and Banks. The officers were shot after responding to the 3200 block of Elmley Ave. for a complaint about drug-dealing.

But this time, Crudup testified, the handprint on a nearby porch could be explained away; he was frequently in the area. What about his cell phone, which was found at the scene the next day? He had gone to the area the next day and lost it. If he had dropped it when the officers were chasing him, why didn't police find it at the time? Flynn asked the jury.

And yes, he made a lot of calls back and forth with the star witness on the night of shooting, but police did not pinpoint where those calls had come from.

And the gun? With one bullet shattered and another lodged in Lane's leg, unable to be safely removed, no one could say whether the bullets matched the pistol found at the scene. And the gun didn't match the two shell casings found there.

Lane and Banks also couldn't positively identify their assailant.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, said that Crudup would be free had state and federal prosecutors not worked together and done "a careful review of the case."

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