A Baltimore Circuit Court judge imposed the maximum punishment of three consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole, plus 100 years for gun offenses, on Derrick Taylor yesterday for his role in the killings of three recovering addicts at a Remington group home.
Before imposing punishment, Judge Roger W. Brown said the facts of the case "shook me to the very core." He added: "No matter how long I live, I won't be able to forget that."
Family members brought pictures of the victims to court, held hands and some said, "Yes! Yes!" as the sentence was read. Tears ran down one woman's face as she gestured that she approved of the sentence.
Taylor, shackled and dressed in a blue-gray Department of Corrections jumpsuit, stood and told the judge that he was not responsible for the shootings. "I'm not the one who did it," he said. "I still maintain my innocence." He was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and other weapons charges in late February.
According to court testimony, Taylor went to the North Baltimore halfway house in January 2005 with an accomplice. The pair, armed with guns, told a resident named Antwon Arthur he needed to pay a $300 drug debt.
Arthur didn't have the money, but a friend, Nathaniel Gulliver, offered to help. Gulliver walked with one gunman to a nearby Bank of America ATM, emptied his checking account and handed over $140 -- nearly all the money he had.
The gunmen were apparently not satisfied.
After Gulliver returned to the group home with the money, police said the gunmen corralled five people into a room on the second floor. They shot Gulliver, Arthur and another resident, Steven Matthews, in the head. A fourth man was shot in the back as he tried to get out a second-floor window, but he survived. They fired at a fifth man, but he was not hit.
"I've done this for a long time," said the judge. "I think one thing that really, really got next to me was the fact that Mr. Gulliver asked how much was owed and then he went to an ATM and came back. He gave up the money simply to spare a human being from harm."
Brown said he views Taylor as "the catalyst and the cause" of the crime and therefore it was appropriate that he accept the brunt of the blame.
Another man, Corey McMillon, is also charged with murder, accused by police of being the second gunman. He is serving a life sentence plus 20 years for convictions in a separate murder.
In court yesterday, Sharon A.H. May, Taylor's attorney, said that the prosecutor's office plans to drop the murder charges against McMillon.
"They don't have what they think is a strong enough case against Corey McMillon; the state wants to hold Derrick Taylor for responsibility for everything," she said in court.
Assistant State's Attorney Donald J. Giblin declined to comment on plans for McMillon, who is scheduled to go on trial in the group home killings Friday.
May argued that her client should be sentenced to a single life term.
The attorney said that Taylor has a child and suffered no hardships growing up.
Taylor attended Lake Clifton Eastern High School and earned his General Educational Development certificate in 1998, May said. He has worked at a delicatessen on Pratt Street and a local bakery, she said. He has no known mental health problems and does not abuse drugs or alcohol, she said.
Family members of two of Taylor's victims supported the maximum penalty. Holding up a portrait of her brother, Shari Gulliver addressed the judge: "Instead of making plans for a family reunion, I was making plans to bury my brother."
Gulliver's grandson, also named Nathaniel, was in court as well. He's 20 months old, and Shari Gulliver noted that he never met his grandfather.
Elizabeth Matthews Jones, the older sister of Steven Jones, said: "We believe he was murdered in cold blood by someone he'd never met. ... Who knows what he could have accomplished."
Matthews' mother also spoke, saying that since her son died she's had nightmares and that she is haunted by "Steven spottings" -- moments when she sees a person in the distance who has the same hair, built or gait as her son.
"I don't want Mr. Taylor to ever walk the streets of this city or any other -- ever," she said. "The maximum penalty for his crimes should be imposed."
After the judge made his sentence known, Taylor turned and smiled at people gathered in the courtroom before being led away.
The three life sentences and five 20-year terms for gun charges will be served consecutively. Giblin, the prosecutor, said: "It means that he's never going to get out of jail."