Second trial of man accused in double killing set to conclude

Kenneth D. Perry, sentenced in 2001 to life without parole, is being retried because prosecutor withheld evidence

February 03, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Prosecutors hope to conclude on Friday their retrial of a man sentenced in 2001 to life without parole for killing two people, a conviction subsequently derailed after a prosecutor withheld crucial evidence from the defense.

Kenneth D. Perry, 45, was found to have killed a pregnant woman, Kelly Bunn, and his former girlfriend, LaShawn Jordan, in a Reservoir Hill apartment in 1998 as Jordan's 4-year-old daughter watched.

Perry was taken Thursday from the courtroom of Baltimore Circuit Judge Stuart R. Berger after complaining of chest pains, and was being given medical treatment. Nevertheless, the judge expected that closing arguments would be held Friday as scheduled.

The retrial, which began Monday, was being attended by several relatives of the victims. Donna Webster, Jordan's mother, said this week that she hoped the state's case had not been weakened by the outcome of the first trial.

In 2008, the state's top public defender called on Patricia C. Jessamy, then Baltimore state's attorney, to review closed homicide cases that had been handled by prosecutor Cassandra Costley after it was discovered that evidence favorable to the defense had been withheld in two murder cases in 2001. One of the defendants was Perry.

After he had exhausted his appeals, Perry's attorney filed requests for post-conviction relief and documents associated with the case. As Lisa Phelps — one of two prosecutors now handling the retrial — began reviewing the files, she discovered records from interviews with the young eyewitness, in which the girl described her mother's killer as having worn a mask. Phelps concluded that Costley had not turned the transcripts over to the defense, as she was required to do.

The girl, Jewel Williams, testified in the first trial that the killer was her mother's boyfriend. Clutching a doll and a Bible on the witness stand three years after the killings, the girl described hugging her mother as the gunman fired. She stayed in the apartment with the bodies for two days, caring for her 1-year-old brother and trying to treat her mother's wounds with toilet paper and a toy stethoscope.

Earlier, Jewel's mother had gone to the police and accused Perry, the father of the little boy, of stalking her and throwing bricks through the windows of her apartment on the 700 block of Lennox St. After the killings, Perry eluded police for two years until he was arrested in California on drug charges.

Costley was demoted for trying to prevent the release of exculpatory evidence. She was assigned to felony drug indictments, a position in which she would not take cases to trial, and was later hired by the public defender's office.

During the 2001 trial, Perry's attorney, William Monfried — who has since died — did not ask Jewel about a mask. Phelps, the prosecutor in the retrial, said during an earlier hearing that the bulk of the evidence "was the testimony of young Jewel, and this information could have had an impact on the case had the defense attorney been aware of it."

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