A Baltimore courtroom 'Matlock'

The Baltimore Sun

When friends recalled Marshall Shure yesterday, they compared him to Matlock, a folksy, down-home attorney who could lull people into thinking he was their friend while he was tearing their testimony apart. He could equally play the part of father confessor and social worker.

Mr. Shure, an assistant state's attorney who prosecuted vagrancy, car theft, spouse beating and drug possession cases in Baltimore's neighborhood courts - mostly in the Southern District - died of lung cancer Wednesday at the Levindale Hebrew Center and Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 72.

For more than three decades in four courthouses - on Ostend Street, in Cherry Hill, in Brooklyn and on Wabash Avenue - Mr. Shure was well-known to small-time criminals, police officers, fellow lawyers and judges. Occasionally, one of those offenders he had sent to prison or got into a rehabilitation program thanked him for turning his life around.

He "never ran for office, and he never was host of a television show. But the man can't stand 15 minutes in a public place in South Baltimore - Cross Street Market, for instance - without some aging delinquent recognizing him as an important figure from the distant or immediate past," said a 2003 Dan Rodricks column. "Prostitutes, drug addicts, alcoholics, petty burglars, car thieves, sex fiends, purse snatchers, shoplifters, even old glue-huffers - they all know the 6-foot-6 Shure, and many, surprisingly, regard him in a fond way."

Born in Baltimore and raised in its Pimlico section, he was the son of a pharmacist whose Shure's stores were in several city neighborhoods.

Mr. Shure was a 1954 City College graduate who earned a University of Baltimore School of Law degree. As a young man, he sold insurance and drove a cab. Friends said he never flinched from employing salty, profane language - and enjoyed it when others shot it back to him.

Family members recalled that he became an assistant state's attorney about 1972 and that he was assigned to the Southern District, where he remained for nearly 31 years, much of it as chief prosecutor. In recent years, he had been at Northwestern District Court. He last appeared in the courtroom in early December and became ill while on vacation in Florida. He had not retired.

"He taught me that fairness was the most important role," said District Judge Barbara Baer Waxman, who once worked alongside Mr. Shure. "He advised me not to let the power of the office cloud your responsibility to do the just thing."

She recalled her experience with Mr. Shure, saying that while "he wasn't a Perry Mason, he was a Matlock, one of the best cross-examiners I've ever known."

She also said that he seemed to own only one set of clothes - a jacket and tie that he wore for years.

"People would come up to him and thank him for helping to turn their lives around," Judge Waxman said. "Drug addicts thanked him for helping them get treatment. A lot of people just thank him for being fair. He had a big heart."

For some years in the 1980s, he presented cases heard by District Judge Daniel Friedman. After the morning session, the two would meet.

"The judge would yell at Marshall all morning and then eat lunch with him at the Cross Street Market," said Tim Murray, a friend who is also an assistant state's attorney at Wabash.

Mr. Shure's colorful personality made him the subject of several newspaper stories.

"The police in Southern like him because he's always on their side, sometimes more than he has to be. He's one of the boys, a cop's courtroom buddy," said a 1978 Evening Sun profile of him. "He is tenacious when he has to be, especially when a defendant tries to blame his troubles on the police who arrested him. It can be seen on Mr. Shure's face. The left eyebrow rises, the mouth twists downward. He gets angry."

Mr. Shure was an active member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, where he assisted at services.

Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Sol Levinson & Brothers, 8900 Reisterstown Road.

Survivors include a brother, Richard M. Shure of Owings Mills; a niece and a nephew.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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