A violent career criminal had to be restrained in Baltimore City Circuit Court yesterday after he was sentenced to life behind bars for fatally shooting a Pigtown mother of two over pocket change.
Leon Yukem Noel -- who was convicted in January of killing Denise Ann Cooke after robbing her of 52 cents two summers ago -- screamed profanities at Judge John Carroll Byrnes as he read the sentence in a packed courtroom: life without parole plus 25 years.
"I'll see you in hell," Noel, 24, yelled at Byrnes, before telling the judge to perform a sex act.
Two correctional officers restrained the defendant, who refused
to leave the courtroom after the sentencing. He stood next to the judge's bench and continued to curse.
Noel's outburst caused an outcry from his mother and a family friend, who repeatedly told him to "shut up."
Through it all, Cooke's family sat silently. The Cookes have a son and adaughter.
Cooke, 44, was fatally shot above the left eye about 3: 30 a.m. Aug. 8, 1995. Noel accosted her and her husband in the 1300 block of Washington Blvd., demanding money.
Her slaying outraged Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who said the city cannot tolerate such acts of violence.
The mayor's anger was echoed in court yesterday by prosecutor Gary D. Schenker.
During the three-hour hearing, Schenker read from a 22-page presentencing report, stating that "since the age of 10, Mr. Noel has had contact upon contact with the juvenile and adult correctional system -- including at least six offenses that were violent in nature."
"But time and time again, Mr. Noel was put back out on the street, and his response has been to hurt other members of our community. He is a man incapable of rehabilitation. We are asking that the state essentially warehouse Mr. Noel until he dies, so that he is not able to go out and harm another person," Schenker said.
Schenker's closing remarks were greeted with applause from Noel, who laughed and made an obscene gesture as the prosecutor sat down. Until that moment, Noel, dressed in a gray sweat suit and white sneakers, had sat expressionless at the defense table.
His attorney, Maureen Glancy, tried to calm him, then addressed the court, stating that she was "disturbed" to see Noel's juvenile record included in the presentencing report, since that record had been "shredded."
"It makes one wonder where this information is coming from," Glancy said.
She also pointed out what she called "minor" factual errors contained in the report, and twice referred to Noel's childhood and the fact that as a youngster he had been given several mood-altering drugs, including Ritalin and lithium. She attributed his violent behavior to the possibility that he suffers from "psychosis" and "clinical depression."
"In light of the reasons he was out of control I am asking the court to see if, with the benefit of medication and psychological counseling, Mr. Noel may be someone who can actually correct his past behavior and even help other men coming into the corrections system," Glancy said. "He will have no motivation for redemption if sentenced to life without parole."
But Byrnes, after a 20-minute recess, handed down the stiffest sentence possible.
"This is one of the most twisted lives I've ever seen," Byrnes said. "I don't know if Mr. Noel, the defendant, ever knew a peaceful hour in his life. "Now we must ask -- as we do at all sentencings -- whether there is any chance of rehabilitation. In this case, the answer is no."
The sentence brought a sense of relief to Cooke's daughter, Kimberly, 23, she said, but questions lingered for the victim's husband.
"I'm confused," said Stephen Cooke, 46. "I didn't know he had a lengthy criminal record. I feel like he should have been locked up long before my wife was killed. I mean, what does it take to be put away?"
Stephen Cooke's comments were made outside the courtroom, over catcalls by Noel's mother and a young woman who apparently knows Noel and his son.
"I suppose you're clapping now," the young woman said. "I suppose you think I should feel sorry for you, losing your wife. But what about [Noel]? He'll never know his child."
Stephen Cooke shook his head and walked away.
Pub Date: 4/17/97