Judge sets $75,000, $150,000 bail for brothers charged in Towson double homicide

A judge set bail — $75,000 and $150,000 — for two Baltimore County brothers charged with first-degree murder in a double homicide in Towson last week.

District Court Judge Sally C. Chester set the respective bails at a hearing Thursday for Nyghee Nicholas Johnson, 21, and Norwood Thomas Johnson Jr., 29, after she found the statement of probable cause lacked basic information, said defense attorney Warren Brown, who is representing the men.


"Though it's a very serious charge, the statement of facts is very thin," Brown said Thursday after the hearing.

The brothers, both of the unit block of Paula Place in the Rossville area, are charged in the killing of Stanley B. Brunson Jr., 29, and Shameek Davone Joyner, 28, at the 20 Lambourne Apartments in Towson.

Two Baltimore County men have been charged with first-degree murder in a double homicide in Towson last week, county police announced Wednesday.

The Johnsons were charged based on a witness and physical evidence, but the charging documents lacked any information about how credible the witness is and what kind of physical evidence the police found, Brown said.

Details such as "what physical evidence and how reliable is this person" should be included in those documents, Brown said. Without that information, "that means anybody can get arrested because somebody said he did it and there's some physical evidence," he said.

"Tell us, let us know" the credibility of the witness, Brown said, and elaborate about the type of physical evidence.

Brown said the prosecutor couldn't answer those questions before the judge.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger declined to comment.

Brian Thompson, a defense attorney who is not involved in the case, said it's unusual for judges to set bail for defendants charged with first-degree murder.

"It's unusual for someone to be granted bail in a double homicide," Thompson said.

By contrast, the four Baltimore police officers facing felony charges in the death of Freddie Gray posted $350,000 bails, including one facing the charge of second-degree depraved heart murder; and the two facing misdemeanors posted $250,000 bails.

But since bail reform was adopted last year, fewer individuals are required to post money bails. Defendants who pose a public safety risk are rated on a multi-tiered system. Usually, those who are charged with crimes as serious as murder are held until trial.

Thompson said judges still will set money bails when there's a concern the defendant is a flight risk.

Maryland's judges and its public defender say bail reforms adopted last year are working, and have reduced the number of people who are held because they can't afford to post bond. The numbers of defendants being released and being held without bond have both increased.

It's not unusual for police to withhold witness names in statement of charges as a precaution against retaliation, Thompson said. They're usually turned over to the defense during discovery before the case heads to trial, he said.

"The weakness of the charging document, that there was no specific description of the physical evidence would work in the defense's favor," he said.

"I'm sure Judge Chester had her reasons," Thompson said.

A maintenance worker, who had been previously given permission to enter the apartment that day for a water- or pipe-related problem, found both men dead the morning of April 9, police said.

Neither the defendants nor the victims lived in the apartment where the shootings occurred, police said. Investigators say the victims had gone to the apartment to meet with the Johnson brothers after its resident set up a drug transaction.

The men were in the process of posting bail Thursday afternoon, and Brown said he expected them to be released later that night. As part of their release, the judge required that they be held on home detention, which requires them to wear an ankle bracelet to track their whereabouts, Brown said.

"The Baltimore County Police department, especially the homicide unit, is one of the best in the country. But on this one, they got it wrong. These boys are innocent," he said. "The judge did the courageous thing."

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