Because of bungling by Baltimore prosecutors, two men charged with murder walked city streets as free men for four days this spring.
Deputy State's Attorney Haven Kodeck explains it this way: One prosecutor forgot to tell another prosecutor the pair had been indicted on the charges that could send them to prison for life.
As a result, the judge dismissed the cases on May 8, and the men were sent back to jail - where they had spent a month - with a letter telling officials to release them.
Attorney Warren A. Brown, who represented one of the men wrongfully released, put it a different way:
"It's a perfect case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing," Brown said. My client "could very well have just fled."
But this story of confusion in the courts has a proper ending. Once Brown and the other lawyer learned their clients had been released, they persuaded them to turn themselves in within days.
Brown said the men mistakenly set free were Boza Hinton, 20, of the 3400 block of Kentucky Ave., and Paul L. Johnson, 26, of the 2600 block of Aisquith St. Those two, along with Morris McDaniels, 24, of the 1600 block of Shadyside Road, are now jailed awaiting trial on murder charges in October.
They are accused of shooting Tyrone Brown, 22, several times at his home in the 1600 block of Ralworth Road.
Kodeck said the cases against the men were scheduled for brief hearings in the city's lower court on May 8 so that the indictment numbers could be formally recorded.
But for some reason the court files were not in the courtroom, he said, so the judge decided to hear the cases in the afternoon, Kodeck said. The prosecutor for the morning docket forgot to tell the prosecutor on the afternoon docket that the men had been indicted.
As a result, Kodeck said, the judge dismissed the cases and ordered the two men freed. The third was not released, because he was in prison on an unrelated charge.
Kodeck said the error was quickly discovered, and the lawyers for the men were notified. He said one prosecutor, whom he refused to name, was disciplined. But he declined to say what action had been taken. The incident provided a lesson, he said.
"We have to be more focused and attentive to what we do," Kodeck said yesterday.