After Robert G. Moore's cousin was killed, prosecutors say, he mobilized the rest of his family and declared war on an entire Baltimore block, vowing the "total obliteration" of the people he deemed responsible for the death.
"To Robert Moore, revenge was more than what they talk about in the Bible, more than an eye for an eye, more than a tooth for a tooth," Assistant State's Attorney Kelly Madigan said in court Thursday.
Moore, 45, is on trial along with his nephew, Quincy Chisholm, 22, and his brother, Anthony Roach, 36, in a spate of shootings that wounded five and killed one. Moore and Roach face murder and murder conspiracy charges. Chisholm is accused of attempted murder and conspiracy.
Moore was not present in court to face the accusations or hear the initial evidence against him. He has refused to cooperate in the proceedings and was held in the courthouse lockup after a judge ruled Wednesday it was too dangerous to bring him to court by force.
Maryland law allows a trial to proceed without the presence of a defendant if he or she is deemed to have chosen not to be in court or is being so disruptive that he or she has to be removed. At the start of the trial, the judge and the attorneys in the case went to the area where Moore was being held.
A trial cannot begin if a defendant never appears in court, according to Steven D. Silverman, a defense attorney not involved in the case.
Silverman described Moore's case as "extraordinary" but said the judge appeared to have satisfied the requirements of the law.
"It sounds to me that the judge, by going to the lockup personally … started the trial outside of the actual physical bounds of the courtroom," he said.
James Scott, Moore's defense attorney, addressed the issue of his absence head-on as he made his opening statement to the jury.
"Mr. Moore is conspicuously not present, but that's not the point," Scott said. "He's not here and he's not guilty."
And Jane Loving, Chisholm's attorney, attacked the evidence in the case. She compared the state's presentation of its version of the shootings to a box of candy with a ribbon tied around it. But she told jurors that if they take a closer look, they'll find the candy is "rancid" and that the case is based on the testimony of addicts, drug dealers and killers.
Madigan said prosecutors will be able to prove their theory about Moore's desire for revenge. She said they will rely on testimony from a number of his co-conspirators as well as recorded jail phone calls in which they say Moore directed his wife, Sarah Hooker, to keep up the fight.
Madigan said detectives began linking the shootings together when they obtained a license plate number of a rental car involved in one of them. That car had been hired by Hooker, Madigan said, and rental records showed she had also hired cars on other dates when there had been attacks.
But for a while, prosecutors say, Moore took delight in his offensive — singing on the recorded jail phone line after one shooting and proposing to Hooker that their group adopt a new name: "the untouchables."