Herman Madison Henderson recalled being "quite irritated" when he was arrested last month in a homicide committed 26 years ago.
Mr. Henderson said he thought charges lodged against him in 1969 in the shooting death of a reputed city drug lord had been dismissed and forgotten. He's been living in Reservoir Hill, is self-employed as a contractor, and has been married and divorced and has seen his three children become adults since then, he said.
But the murder charges resurfaced Sept. 5, when he was arrested by an FBI fugitive task force. Yesterday, he appeared in Baltimore Circuit Court for a hearing before Judge Roger W. Brown, who scheduled a rearraignment for Oct. 27.
Outside of court, he maintained his innocence.
"All I know is what is common knowledge," he said, "that a murder was committed and I was arrested for murder."
There is much to cause confusion in the case.
Since the saga began, Mr. Henderson has changed his name from Mack Douglas Thomas, the name listed in the few documents in court yesterday.
His original case was placed on the inactive docket in 1970 because no witnesses were available to testify, according to a docket sheet. It was reopened at the request of prosecutors in November 1972.
Mr. Henderson, 53, has been arrested several times on unrelated charges, his lawyer said. Not once did the arresting officers or the court officials learn that he was being sought on a bench warrant issued in 1973 in the murder charge. Only one attempt was made to arrest him on that warrant before last month.
zTC But he finally was arrested Sept. 5 on charges of fatally shooting Clarence "Egypt" Jones, 45, a reputed drug lord.
Mr. Henderson was 27 when he originally was charged with chasing Mr. Jones into a carryout restaurant in the 1000 block of Pennsylvania Ave. on Sept. 5, 1969, and shooting him. Police said the motive for the shooting was a dispute with Mr. Jones over a woman.
His formal rearraignment will determine whether the case should go to trial.
Defense lawyer Michael E. Kaminkow said he plans to argue that charges should be dismissed because Mr. Henderson never was notified of a hearing to reopen the case. He said the failure to notify his client was a violation of the court's rules.
In yesterday's hearing, Mr. Kaminkow said there was no need for a trial.
"Do we need a trial date?" Baltimore Circuit Judge Roger W. Brown asked the prosecutor and the defense lawyer.
"I don't think so," Mr. Kaminkow said.
"Mr. Kaminkow seems to think he's sitting in the catbird seat," the judge reacted, but set a Dec. 6 trial date anyway.
After the hearing, Mr. Kaminkow said Mr. Henderson has never tried to avoid being prosecuted on the murder charge.
Before the case begins, officials will have to dig up all the pertinent papers, which were not found yesterday in the thicket of court documents. Only a thin duplicate file, containing a 1973 bench warrant and recently drafted papers, was brought before Judge Brown.
"Maybe somebody can find an indictment somewhere," the perplexed judge told the prosecutor, Donald J. Giblin, who apologized for the city state's attorney's office.
William Zellers, administrative officer of the Circuit Court clerk's criminal division, said the papers may be difficult to find because criminal documents were not placed in files in the early 1970s, but instead were wrapped with rubber bands. They may be somewhere in the court building or in state archives in Annapolis or Jessup, Mr. Zellers said.
David DeAngelis, chief deputy of the Baltimore Sheriff's Department, said he couldn't explain how Mr. Henderson was missed by law enforcement officers over the years, except to say that old cases processed by hand rather than computer are harder to find.
But he said it was unusual that a murder case slipped past officers for so long.
"I've been in the system for 22 years," he said. "There are cracks in it and things do fall through."