The jury, composed of nine women and three men, convicted Karla Porter of first-degree murder in a case that tested the scope of self-defense arguments.
The 51-year-old defendant stood stoically in a dark pant suit with her long red hair tightly braided as the jury foreman read the verdict, which could send her to prison for the rest of her life without the possibility of parole.
Porter acknowledged on the stand that she arranged for the shooting death of 49-year-old William "Ray" Porter on March 1, 2010 at a Towson Hess station on Joppa Road owned by the victim.
Porter said she had endured years of abuse, which led her to plot her husband's death. Her lawyer had hoped for a conviction on a lesser charge of manslaughter, but prosecutors said that the crime was premeditated and that Porter had searched for a killer for some time, even offering two other men money in exchange for the killing.
"We feel like justice has been served," said Ray Porter's brother, Rick Porter, outside the courthouse after the verdict. "Ray was a good man," and Karla Porter's allegations of abuse were false, he said.
The trial has been hard on family members who packed the courtroom each day, he said. They lost not only Ray Porter but also Karla, who had been considered part of the family, he said.
Karla Porter also has deprived her three children of their father — and now she will no longer be present in their lives, Rick Porter said. He said the trial has strained relations with Ray and Karla's daughter, who testified in court that she witnessed her father abuse her mother.
Porter's attorney, William B. Purpura, said his client's case was the first in Maryland for a "defense of spousal abuse" in a murder-for-hire case. He said it was her only option for defense, since she had confessed to homicide detectives shortly after her husband's death.
"This trial was a first," he said.
Purpura said the jury should have been better instructed on how to evaluate evidence in spousal-abuse cases. "This will make an interesting appellate issue," he said.
Deputy State's Attorney John Cox said after the verdict that Porter's defense was "a disgrace" to true victims of domestic violence. He criticized her use of a self-defense argument in the case, calling it the "final act of desperation for Karla Porter."
"In my mind that was all lies," he said.
The verdict brings to an end a three-year saga and completes a victory for the Baltimore County state's attorney's office, with Porter the latest and last to be tried and convicted in connection with the plot that led to her husband's death.
Porter's nephew, Seamus Coyle, who found the hit man; Porter's sister, Susan M. Datta, who obtained the gun; and the hit man, Walter Bishop, have all been convicted and sent to prison. Bishop was offered $9,000 but paid only $400 to fulfill the contract. Prosecutors said he wanted the money to pay off child support.
Calvin Lee Mowers, who drove Bishop to the station, and Matthew Phillip Brown, who accompanied him, also were sentenced to life sentences with all but 20 years suspended.
Prosecutors said Karla Porter called Bishop 53 times, even meeting him briefly at a nearby McDonald's that morning to make sure he would go through with the shooting.
She joined her husband at the gas station, and while setting up racks of merchandise outside, saw the gunman. Bishop later followed her inside the gas station, pulled a gun from his sweatshirt and opened fire, killing Ray Porter.
Karla Porter called 911 and told police that a young black man did it. She would later relay the false description to homicide detectives until finally confessing, telling them that she just wanted the abuse to stop.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Porter until it was repealed by the state legislature this year. Bishop was eligible, but a jury decided not to sentence him to execution.