Perry Hall Couple Sentenced In Murder

July 24, 2009|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,

Lance Walker, an alleged Black Guerrilla Family gang member who threatened to harm a witness in court while the witness was still on the stand, was sentenced Thursday to life plus 20 years in prison for murdering a New York-based drug dealer.

Walker, 29, smiled as corrections officers led him from the courtroom, but Nadirah Moreno, the woman he calls his wife, cried as retired Baltimore Circuit Judge John Carroll Byrnes sentenced her to 40 years in prison for "setting up" the murder.

Byrnes said Walker lacks a "moral compass" and exhibits "psychopathic qualities" - and that his threat against the witness only reinforced those views. Byrnes described Moreno as "cold," "calculating" and "evil."

"You're simply no innocent," he said.

In May, after a 17-day trial, a city jury convicted Walker and Moreno of carrying out an elaborate murder plot against a New York-based Jamaican drug dealer who had fronted the Perry Hall couple $48,000 worth of marijuana. Walker and Moreno decided not to repay the money and, instead, plotted the killing.

Prosecutor Theresa Shaffer said Moreno lured Marlon Beckford, 31, to Baltimore with promises of repayment. When Beckford arrived, Moreno told him that Walker had been arrested and that he would have to come with her to get the $48,000.

Early on Oct. 30, 2007, with Beckford, his infant godson and the child's mother in the car, Moreno led them to a secluded area in front of the Ravenwood apartments in the 5800 block of Edgepark Road. Shaffer said Walker pulled up in a Lincoln Navigator and opened fire, probably with the help of an unknown accomplice.

Before announcing the sentence, Byrnes addressed Walker's attorney, Margaret Mead, and asked if, "in the interest of justice," her client wanted to name his accomplice.

A stunned Mead replied that her client had "always maintained his innocence" and, therefore, could not disclose a "co-shooter." And if he could, she doubted that Byrnes was offering a reduced sentence in exchange.

A clash of wills among Byrnes, Mead and Shaffer, in part, lengthened the trial and Thursday's hearing, which lasted more than three hours. Byrnes, at one point, accused Mead of having "stepped out of bounds," of calling a news conference, of "abuse" of her responsibility and sloppy legal writing.

Mead and Walker's attorney, Leslie Stein, accused the judge of holding a secret meeting with jurors, erratically deeming a witness an expert then reversing himself, allowing the jury to hear prejudicial evidence and failing to call for a mistrial because of the impact Walker's threat had on Moreno's case.

It took the sobering words of Beckford's friend, the mother of his infant godson, to remind onlookers of how life-shattering the crime was and of the burden it created for witnesses.

The woman, who testified as a witness for the state at the trial, said she has had to send her daughter away to live with her family because she feared for her life, and that she has had to move out of Baltimore.

"I cannot sleep at night without worrying that someone is going to come into my home and harm myself and my son," she said. "I never get to see [my friends and family] and when I do, they are afraid to be around me. I feel like I am living in secrecy, like I have been the one convicted of this crime."

If Moreno is released, another arrest could result in her spending the rest of her life in prison.

Both Mead and Stein said they plan to appeal.

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