A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury convicted a man police described as a criminal "legend" of first-degree assault and multiple handgun violations for shooting a man in Southwest Baltimore in 2011.
Stanley Brunson, 36, had also been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, but was acquited on those counts.
"It kind of makes no sense based on the evidence in the case," Gil Amaral, Brunson's attorney, said of the verdict. "When there's only evidence of one gun being fired it's really an all or nothing situation."
The verdict is a partial victory for prosecutors — and one which could still see Brunson serve a lengthy prison sentence — in a case that pitted the Baltimore police's ability to lock away a man they have publicly said is a notorious criminal against the limitations of pursuing murder cases in the city.
Brunson is scheduled for sentencing in May and faces up to 53 years in prison, including a mandatory minimum of five years without the possibility of parole.
Assistant State's Attorney Traci Robinson told the jury in her opening statement that many witnesses followed a "code" that meant they would try to protect criminals by changing their story. Prosecutors also say witness intimidation is a near-constant problem in murder cases, and in her closing arguments, Robinson described how one witness was shaking and crying in fear before he came to court.
Amaral said in an interview that there was no evidence of any threats against people who testified in the case.
But as Robinson had foreshadowed, one of the alleged victims said on the stand that Brunson did not shoot him. Two other witnesses had only partial memories of what happened, and police bungled an attempt to recover surveillance camera footage of the shooting's aftermath.
Prosecutors said Stanley Brunson shot Donte Collins and Darnell Edwards on Dec. 19, 2011. Edwards, who they said was the intended target, survived his wounds, but Collins did not. Robinson said Brunson was so eager to shoot Edwards that he mistakenly shot Collins in the back.
Edwards testified, though, that Brunson was a good friend of his and would have no reason to shoot him, Robinson said in her closing argument. She dismissed his version of the story, saying he was following an unwritten rule that dictated he not co-operate with law enforcement under any circumstances.
In his closing argument, Amaral said that Robinson's reasoning was a way to sweep inconvenient details "under the rug."
"We're a city of liars, because we just trying to protect people who commit crime. That's what we are, that's what the State's Attorney's office in Baltimore city has decided that the city is," he said.
"I don't buy it."
Shortly after the shooting, then-Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III pointed to an attack on Brunson as a possible cause for a string of killings in Baltimore, describing him as "an engine for violent crime" and a "legend" in his neighborhood for avoiding previous charges. He had been shot Dec. 15, police said.
The department does not usually release the names of non-fatal shooting victims, a policy it says it follows to protect them as witnesses.
Robinson did not discuss that motive at trial, but Amaral said proclomations like Bealefeld's are prejudicial to people accused of crimes.
"The citizens become inundated with this idea that a person is guilty when they are charged," he said.
twitter.com/iduncanCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun