Season 2, Episode 9 of the oft discussed (especially in Maryland) The Wire begins with two sets of corner boys fighting over territory in a shoot out in a neighborhood. The scene plays up one of the greatest tragedies, and biggest fears of city life, and gives the episode its title when the bullets from the shoot out fail to hit any of their targets, but instead kills a 9-year-old boy getting ready for school who dies in his mother’s arms. It was a gripping scene that still gives me chills.
Even with David Simon’s writing, I don’t think he imagined that one of the members of a similar style of gun fight in the street that killed a random child, would one day be serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, not elected by the voters, but selected by the party elites and appointed by the Governor. To his credit, Governor Martin O’Malley has tried to fight the appointment and applied light pressure on the Prince George’s County Democrats to send him someone else, even going so far as to try to get the former Delegate that had to give up the seat because she was convicted of stealing from her campaign account to get the seat back.
But the Democrats in Prince George’s County doubled down on Gregory Antoine Hall, even though he keeps finding himself tangled up in the law on so many occasions, saying that he has sought redemption. Of course, most of his charges have been dropped by the State’s Attorney, including driving on a suspended license. I don’t know why a State’s Attorney wouldn’t prosecute a driving on a suspended license, the guy either was driving on Route 202 without a license like the officer said, or somehow the officer was lying. But it fits a string of a declination to prosecute going back to when he was involved in the shootout that killed a 13-year-old.
It is that case though that I want to focus on because I’m torn on whether justice was carried out or not. The State’s Attorney at the time declined to prosecute Hall for the death of the 13-year-old and instead only went after him for a gun violation because it was determined that he did not fire the first shot, and did not fire the inadvertent shot that ultimately killed the 13-year-old. If two drug dealers (and Hall told the Washington Post that he was a drug dealer at the time) get into a shoot-out and one person dies, does it matter if he was the one that fired the first shot or not, or if he was the one that fired the stray round that happened to kill someone.
Normally the law doesn’t distinguish a trigger man for murder during the commission of a felony. The unplanned killing of a store clerk during the robbery will net the getaway driver the same sentence as the guy in the store with the handgun. The reasoning behind this doctrine is that if the underlying felony never took place, the victim would never have died.
If soon to be Delegate Gregory Antoine Hall never started dealing drugs (felony) then the 13-year-old would still be alive. He knew his actions were inherently dangerous and he knew that, that’s why he was carrying the gun with him to protect himself, his money and his drugs. But Maryland law seems to be on his side in this, or at least the lenient State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County.
So should a drug dealer be convicted for murder during a shoot out even if he was only “defending” himself with an illegal handgun if he fires back and in the process someone is killed?
Oh, did I mention that Delegate Tiffany Alston who Hall is replacing served on the Judiciary Committee, responsible for deciding what felony murder is. Boy I hope Speaker Busch rearranges some committee assignments for this one.
One more thing to make you go hmmm…the State’s Attorney at the time of the dropping of the murder charge was Jack Johnson, who we all remember plead guilty of extortion and witness tampering in connection to the investigation into his corruption. You may remember the wife stuffing money in her underwear and flushing a check.
In other corrupt government news, Delegate Jon Cardin, who famously paid (after the fact) about $300 for a police helicopter and boat to help him propose to his girlfriend, wants to run for Attorney General when Doug Gansler runs for Governor. Jon Cardin was on track to run for Baltimore County Executive before his stunt landed him in (apparently in his eyes) temporary hot water. He’ll face stiff competition from ethically cleaner and devoutly liberal Senator Brian Frosh who is the odds on favorite since he hails from the Democratic Primary rich Washington suburbs.