Murder Convictions Voided Over Judicial Error

February 02, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,

The state's second-highest court on Monday overturned first-degree murder convictions in a 2007 double homicide after finding that the trial judge violated key court rules.

Prosecutors say they will seek to retry Larry Livingston Joseph, who has been serving two life sentences plus 40 years for the broad-daylight killings of two city men Sept. 16, 2007, in the Belair-Edison neighborhood of Baltimore.

"It will be set in for a trial," said Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy.

Writing for a unanimous Court of Special Appeals, retired Judge James A. Kenney III said a Baltimore Circuit Court judge violated rules intended to safeguard a defendant's right to counsel when he failed to ask Joseph why he sought to fire his lawyer on the eve of his 2008 trial.

The issue arose when a prosecutor told the judge Joseph had said something about "release" of his lawyer, and later in the hearing the assistant public defender representing Joseph raised the subject.

The Court of Special Appeals faulted the judge for not pursuing the issue with Joseph.

Judge Charles G. Bernstein refused to postpone the trial and told Joseph that his options were to have a new lawyer ready to begin the trial as scheduled, to go to trial without a lawyer, to continue with the assistant public defender already representing him or to enter into a plea agreement.

Joseph kept the lawyer and went to trial, according to the ruling. Bernstein retired in December.

A jury convicted Joseph, of the 3400 block of Belair Road, of killing Channing Myrick, 26, of the 500 block of N. Glover St., and Deion Morris, 23, of the 1600 block of E. Oliver St.

Evidence included "testimony of three eyewitnesses that [Joseph] shot and killed Morris and Myrick," according to the ruling.

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