Renee Horton had been shot in the face, and watched two masked gunmen kill her two sons. On Tuesday, she wept in a Baltimore courtroom as a prosecutor recounted the horrific moment to the two defendants — Tyrone Carter and a once-promising boxer, James Berry III.
Then Horton forgave them for the 2012 shootings.
"No amount of time is going to change what you did," she said during a sentencing hearing Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court. She recalled that Carter and Berry left her 4-year-old grandson alone in the home-invasion killings. "I forgive what you've done…. I'm grateful that you spared my grandson."
Judge Timothy J. Doory was not as forgiving, sentencing Berry, 28, to two life sentences plus 110 years and Carter, 26, to two life sentences plus 115 years for the double killing.
Prosecutors said a group of masked men kicked in the door to the Hortons' home in 2012, forced the family members downstairs at gunpoint and demanded to know the whereabouts of another Horton brother before they opened fire, killing Allen Horton, 23, and Darian Horton, 19, and wounding Renee Horton.
Berry and Carter were convicted in September. A third defendant was acquitted.
Berry spoke at length at the hearing, referring to papers he carried in a generic corn flakes bag, describing how the case was flawed and maintained his innocence. Berry also spoke of his work in the Sandtown-Winchester community, where he helped mentor young boxers.
"I'm innocent of all these cases," he said. He spoke quickly, and gesturing with his hands that remained cuffed.
He has been charged in six homicides since 2008. He was acquitted in three of them.
"As soon as you turn 18, you become a target," he said, alleging that police targeted him in the investigation, and that he was treated unfairly because he was young black male from West Baltimore.
Doory refuted the claim.
"Both defendants are in complete denial," he said, and described the case as one of the most heinous he's seen over his 40-year career.
"I have never in my time seen so conscious a decision to be cruel and malicious," he said.
Carter did not speak at the hearing.
Berry's attorney Gary E. Proctor said they plan to appeal. During the trial, Berry's and Carter's defense attorneys questioned Renee Horton's identification of Berry and Carter, because the gunmen had been wearing masks.
"Street justice does not work in a court of law," said State's Attorney for Baltimore City Marilyn J. Mosby in a statement. "Our prosecutors are steadfast in their efforts to pursue justice on behalf of victims and families in this city. I hope this sentence gives the victims in this case a sense that justice has prevailed."
Bianca Brown, Berry's stepsister, wiped away tears as the sentences were read. She said she had been helping care for Berry's 8- and 10-year-old sons. "What am I supposed to tell them?" she said.
Howard Grant Sr., who also attended the hearing said "justice was served."
Grant's son, Howard Grant, 18, and another family member were killed in October 2008. Police charged Berry, who was acquitted in April of all charges in that case.
"I feel it's hard for James Berry, but I find it's hard to forgive him," Grant said. "He took something that was irreplaceable."