After more than four years and countless legal twists and turns, Tyrone Beane's latest murder case ended yesterday with a verdict by a Baltimore jury: Not guilty.
Beane, 21, once called the city's "most-wanted fugitive" because he was suspected in two killings, has developed a reputation for ducking serious criminal charges. The other murder case was dropped by prosecutors years ago because of witness problems.
City prosecutors were devastated by yesterday's verdict, reached unanimously after about five hours of deliberation. Defense attorney Bryan A. Mobley did not return phone calls last night. Beane is serving a prison term for a 2001 assault.
"We respect the jury's decision because that's the way the system works," said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office. "But it's a difficult one for us to hear."
Prosecutors had scored a victory two days earlier when a Baltimore circuit judge allowed them to play for the jury an audiotaped statement of their star witness, even though she had failed to come to court for trial. It was their first use of the state's expanded witness intimidation law, enacted last fall.
Beane was on trial in the Jan. 17, 2002, shooting death of Taharka McCoy, 25, in East Baltimore. For years, prosecutors tried to shepherd the case through almost every problem imaginable. Assistant State's Attorney Gerard B. Volatile stayed with the case through a job promotion, and Burns said his efforts should be commended.
After the star witness - Beane's sister - disappeared in early March 2003, Volatile dropped charges and said Beane "got away with murder."
"How can one little person get away with so much stuff and slip through so many cracks?" asked McCoy's mother, Earlene Cox, at the time. She could not be reached for comment last night.
When Tyiashia Beane reappeared in mid-March 2003, Volatile re-filed charges.
Next came more than a dozen case postponements over more than three years, for reasons ranging from no available courtrooms to a lost court file.
Finally, the trial began Monday with testimony. But Tyiashia Beane again was missing.
On Wednesday, Volatile pursued a motion to use her police statement without her - invoking the state's new witness intimidation law.
Part of the law includes a "hearsay exception" that allows jurors to hear certain out-of-court statements by an absent witness when a judge is convinced that the defendant had made the witness too scared to come to court.
Defense attorneys and some state legislators object to the hearsay exception because it takes away a defendant's constitutional right to confront his or her accuser.
Circuit Judge Wanda K. Heard said she was convinced the Beane situation fit the hearsay exception's requirements, and Wednesday afternoon, jurors listened to Tyiashia Beane's words even though she wasn't there to take the stand.
On the tape, made more than four years ago by detectives, Tyiashia Beane says her brother told her what happened. "My brother smacked him in the face," she said. "I don't know who pulled the trigger, but they was tusslin' for the gun."
The McCoy death was one of at least three violent acts police attributed to the then-17-year-old Beane during a six-month period from summer 2001 to the following winter.
Most of the crimes occurred while Beane was being monitored by the Department of Juvenile Justice. A juvenile justice probation officer later said in a court hearing that the department had had trouble keeping track of him.
Police arrested him Feb 2, 2002, after finding him hiding out in an East Baltimore apartment.
Beane was charged in a July 25, 2001, double shooting in the 1600 block of E. Madison St. Christopher Smith, 17, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Vernon Higgs, 22, was wounded.
Prosecutors dropped those charges, saying a witness had made a "bad identification."
Beane was also charged in a Nov. 5, 2001, double assault in the 1300 block of E. Monument St. Police said Beane and three others attacked and shot Fard Myles, then 19, and left him for dead, though he survived.
Before they left, Beane put a gun to the head of a 15-year-old witness and pulled the trigger four times, prosecutors said. The gun malfunctioned and did not fire.
Beane was convicted for those assaults. Circuit Judge John N. Prevas called him "antisocial" and "out of touch with reality" and in late March 2003 gave him a 75-year sentence, the maximum under the law.
Beane will probably be in his mid-50s by the time he is released.
Though frequently a defendant, Beane has been a victim, too. In April 2001, he was shot outside his East Baltimore home, leaving him with digestive problems, police said.
A 22-year-old man was arrested. Months later, prosecutors dropped the charges against him.