Parents of Frostburg State shooter called their son's case 'an uphill battle'

Hall's family and juror say Allegany panel had decided before trial began

  • Tyrone and Kim Hall, parents of Tyrone Hall, talk about their son, who was sentenced Wednesday in Cumberland to five years in jail for killing one Frostburg University basketball player and injuring another in a shooting at the school last April. Their son says he acted in self-defense.
Tyrone and Kim Hall, parents of Tyrone Hall, talk about their… (Kim Hairston, BALTIMORE…)
November 13, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Shortly after Tyrone Hall was sentenced last Wednesday to five years in prison, the family of the 20-year-old man whom Hall shot and killed during a late night confrontation of Frostburg State University students made an interesting observation about Hall's father.

Having heard Hall's father, also Tyrone, speak on behalf of his son during sentencing, Brandon Carroll's father, mother and stepfather all used the same word — rage — in describing the elder Hall's emotions on the witness stand.

It turns out they were right.

Sitting in the dining room of their Glen Burnie home Saturday, Tyrone and Kim Hall expressed their anger toward a prosecutor who portrayed the former Mount St. Joseph soccer standout as a murderer, toward a jury that they say didn't follow the judge's directions about what constitutes self-defense and toward a university they believe had come to its own verdict long before the 21-year-old Hall ultimately pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

"The way the whole thing played out is completely unfair," the elder Hall said. "I wanted to say more [in court], but I was trying to be diplomatic. I'm truly sorry for the kid they lost, but my son is a victim too. Let's be real about it. My son shouldn't even be sitting there."

In their first extensive public comments since their son's arrest for killing Carroll and wounding then-21-year-old Ellis Hartridge Jr. — both of them university basketball players — the Halls said that that attorney William Brennan will be filing a motion to get their son's sentence modified. The younger Hall received a 10-year sentence, half of which was suspended, and two years of unsupervised probation.

"When they gave him these crazy charges to start out with" — Hall was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, as well as first- and second-degree assault — "[prosecutors] felt like they had to stick with it," said Hall, a retired Army master sergeant who now works as a college recruiter. "To be honest with you, he was in the wrong place — Allegany County. Close-minded people."

Allegany County State's Attorney Michael O. Twigg, who couldn't be reached for comment Saturday, characterized Hall in his opening statements by saying that "this man was going to show who's boss" and scoffed at Hall's claim of self-defense by saying, "Is there any reasonable doubt? No, this is murder."

But in handing out his sentence, Circuit Court Judge W. Timothy Finan said that "this case is razor thin between the act of self-defense and a homicide." Finan, who under the plea agreement could have given Hall as much as eight years in prison, added, "It is difficult for the court to fashion a sentence that both sides will find acceptable."

Said Kim Hall, "We knew it was going to be an uphill battle. I don't think Twigg was looking for justice in this case. I think he was looking for someone to take the fall for this tragic event. I think they [the jury] didn't pay attention to the evidence, I think they already had their minds made up prior to the trial even taking place."

At least one of the 12 people who deliberated a verdict after the three-day trial in Cumberland last month agrees.

Cecelia Henderson, a 30-year resident of Cumberland and the only African-American on the jury, said in a telephone interview Saturday that she was the lone juror who voted for Hall's acquittal. After four hours of jury deliberation, Hall took the plea when Finan informed his attorneys of the jury's last vote.

It was disclosed that day that eight jurors were leaning toward voluntary manslaughter and three toward second-degree murder.

"They [the jury] were determined to make an example of him because he was black," Henderson said.

Henderson recalled something that the jury foreman said during the deliberation.

"He was one of the ones who was going towards second-degree murder, he made the statement, 'If we let him off, it's going to give them the impression that they can get armed and shoot anybody they want to solve the problem," Henderson said. "I asked him, 'Who's the them you're referring to?' And he didn't answer me. It's a whole race issue here in Cumberland."

Henderson said that she reached out to Hall's family on Facebook after the trial.

"I wanted to let the family know that there were people here who supported him," Henderson said. "We didn't turn our backs on him because of what happened. We don't condone what happened."

Hall's parents said that they met with university officials regarding their son's situation and the incident leading up to the confrontation. During testimony, Hartridge said that he had called Hall twice that night to say he was coming over to fight after Patrice Britton, a Baltimore woman both men had dated, told Hartridge that Hall had slapped her at a party earlier that evening.

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