A 22-year-old East Baltimore man could receive a prison term of life plus 20 years after being convicted yesterday of murder in the shooting death of gospel radio personality Alfred Jerome Stewart.
A Baltimore Circuit Court jury deliberated for 49 minutes before finding Gary Ricardo Ward guilty of first-degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony in the Sept. 30, 1992, slaying of Mr. Stewart, a morning drive-time disc jockey for gospel radio station WWIN-AM.
Those verdicts came two weeks after Ward was found guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder for shooting into a crowd outside an East Baltimore nightclub. For the Sept. 17, 1992, nightclub shooting, Ward could receive prison terms totaling 110 years.
Sentencing in both cases is set for Nov. 22 before Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe.
Ward showed no reaction yesterday when the guilty verdict was announced. As his mother left the courtroom, she said, "This wasn't a trial. This was a circus. I love you, son."
The trial directly and indirectly involved several members of the Ward family.
After the jury convicted Ward in the nightclub shooting, prosecutor Jerome Briscoe presented him with a choice: If Ward would plead guilty to murdering Mr. Stewart, he would receive a life sentence, but any sentence in the nightclub slaying would run concurrently -- and prosecutors would drop a murder charge against his 17-year-old brother, Lamont Ward, in the Stewart slaying.
Gary Ward rejected the deal, but Mr. Briscoe did not call Lamont Ward's case when Gary Ward's trial began. After yesterday's conviction of Gary Ward -- who was named as the gunman -- Mr. Briscoe said he would dismiss charges against Lamont Ward. And the prosecutor said he would ask for consecutive sentences for Gary Ward.
During the trial, Ward testified that he was home at the time of the shooting. His mother and stepfather and another younger brother testified as alibi witnesses.
Mr. Briscoe told the jury during his closing argument yesterday that
the family members were lying -- a claim supported by the 15-year-old brother's previous grand jury testimony that Gary Ward was not home when the shooting occurred.
Defense lawyer Rodney M. Gaston seemed less than convinced of the relatives' truthfulness, telling the jury that they could disregard that testimony and still find that the state had not proved its case.
Mr. Briscoe then told the jury, "That's a new one: 'Ladies and gentlemen, my witnesses lied to you, but you can disregard what they said.' "
Mr. Briscoe told the jury that tests showed the bullets fired in the nightclub shooting came from the same gun as the bullets taken from Mr. Stewart's body, and that identical bullets were later found in Ward's car. He also said that an admitted drug dealer saw Ward arguing with Mr. Stewart, who apparently was asking for a refund on a drug buy.
Mr. Stewart, 51, died after being shot three times at Cliftview Avenue and Harford Road. The jury was shown pictures of Mr. Stewart's body with two vials of what appeared to be crack cocaine in his hand.
Jurors said they had little difficulty reaching a verdict -- despite the alibi testimony from Ward's relatives.