Charges were dropped Tuesday against two Baltimore men accused of trying to kill a former gang member after the prosecutor deemed their cases "legally insufficient" - which a defense attorney had been saying all along.
Both defendants faced gun, assault and attempted-murder charges in the April 17 shooting of Brian Kinyon, who says he was targeted as retaliation for quitting the Black Guerrilla Family gang. He told police that he thought a gang member who goes by the name "Crock" was the shooter, and that another man he had known since grade school, Darryl Knight, was the lookout.
Their trial was scheduled for Tuesday morning, but after Kinyon changed his story during a hearing last month and a judge threw out a key piece of evidence, prosecutors had to drop the cases.
Defense lawyer Gary Proctor had repeatedly decried the lack of evidence against his indigent client, Christopher Robinson, 19, whom police arrested as the alleged shooter. Proctor filed motions in state and federal courts trying to free Robinson, who has been held in jail since his July arrest.
But he was told that the nature of the charges warranted a high bail - $800,000 in this case - and that Robinson could be cleared at trial if he were innocent.
I'm "glad the State's Attorney's Office did the right thing in the end [and] happy for his family that the period of separation will not be any longer," Proctor said in an e-mail to The Baltimore Sun.
"But for weeks I've been trying to tell anyone that would listen that there was not a shred of competent evidence against this young man and been met with a response akin to if I'd tilted at windmills. The legal system didn't win here. He should never have been charged."
Proctor added that Robinson's six months of "needless" incarceration extended to taxpayers, who paid for it, along with the prosecution and Proctor's defense. He was appointed as a public defender.
Robinson, who has no criminal convictions, became a suspect because a law enforcement database listed his nickname as "Crock," though he and his family say he's never been called that.
And the victim himself said Robinson was the wrong man, even though he'd picked him out of a photo lineup earlier. A Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled that the picture identification was inadmissible at a hearing last month after it was revealed that police had physically altered the teen-ager's image to get a positive ID.
"I'm going home!" Robinson declared as he was led in handcuffs down a courthouse hallway. He didn't make it into the courtroom in time to hear his case dropped, though a half-dozen of his supporters were there. It was over in minutes, before officers could bring Robinson and Knight in. Assistant State's Attorney Charles Fitzpatrick told the judge that he was choosing not to prosecute because there wasn't enough evidence "at this time," and that was it.
Knight, 18, whooped when he heard the news. The decision to drop the cases was due in part to the victim's reluctance to testify. At the December hearing, Kinyon backed away from his earlier identifications of the defendants.
"As such, because we could not use [Kinyon's] photo array identification, coupled with his continued intention to recant, we determined that the case was legally insufficient at this time," Matthew B. Fraling III, chief of the Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement unit within the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said in an e-mailed statement.
Fitzpatrick raised questions in court whether witness intimidation might have been a factor in the switch. But Knight's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender James A. Johnston, said he "never saw any competent evidence against" his client.
Both men were on track to be released by late Tuesday evening. But the case is not over for Proctor. He hopes to continue an appeal he had filed after a motion to reduce Robinson's bond failed - "if only," he said, "so that future cases down the pipe don't suffer the same fate."