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Court upholds shooter's conviction in murder-for-hire plot

A man convicted in a 2010 fatal shooting at a Hess gas station in exchange for $9,000 argued unsuccessfully that he should get a new trial because the judge in his case had once been the target in a similar scheme.

The Court of Special Appeals upheld Walter P. Bishop Jr.'s conviction in an opinion announced Tuesday. Bishop, now 32, was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus 20 years for shooting William "Ray" Porter at a Joppa Road gas station in Towson on March 1, 2010. Bishop was hired by Porter's wife, Karla Porter, who agreed to pay him for the murder.

During her trial, Porter claimed she was trying to escape an abusive relationship, but prosecutors questioned her testimony and the jury convicted her. She was sentenced to life in November.

Bishop argued for a new trial on grounds that Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Mickey J. Norman should have recused himself because he might be biased after having been the target of an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot over a decade earlier while serving as Baltimore County prosecutor.

Norman said he didn't recall the plot against him during a motions hearing before the trial. "I didn't remember the case until you brought it up in your motion. It has no significance to me. I don't consider myself a victim," Norman said, according to the opinion.

The Court of Special Appeals said Bishop failed to identify how Norman showed any bias.

Bishop also argued that his trial was unfair because an intern for the judge had previously worked at the office of the public defender and contributed to Bishop's defense, creating a conflict of interest. But Norman said, and the court found, "zero evidence" that the intern had discussed Bishop's case with the judge. She completed her internship before the case went to trial.

Bishop also argued that his sentences for murder and conspiracy to commit murder should have been concurrent. But the panel agreed with the lower court's consecutive sentences, saying that murder and conspiracy are two separate crimes.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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