The three remaining juvenile defendants charged with the murder of a Baltimore County police officer have decided to forgo their right to a jury trial, and instead elected to plead guilty to first-degree murder. The guilty pleas were entered today during a previously scheduled court appearance at the circuit court in Towson, and a sentencing hearing will take place later in the summer. Trial dates that were originally scheduled for September have been cancelled. The plea came a month after the main defendant, a 17-year old, was convicted of first-degree murder, burglary and theft for running over a police officer in a stolen car after committing burglary of a nearby home. This defendant will learn his fate at the end of July, and faces a mandatory life sentence.
As part of the plea for the three remaining defendants, the State’s Attorney’s Office requested that the judge cap the active period of incarceration at 30 years. While a conviction for murder in Maryland carries a mandatory life sentence, the statute does not require the defendant to serve the entire sentence in prison, and a portion of the sentence may be suspended. If the judge accepts the State’s recommendation the three will serve at least 15 years in prison before being parole eligible. Defendants sentenced to state prison are normally eligible for parole after serving 25 percent of their sentence, but for a violent offense must serve at least 50 percent before being considered. Regardless of when they are released, all defendants will likely be placed on probation for a period of 3 to 5 years and will be on parole for life.
All four of the defendants are considered juveniles, but all four were charged directly as adults. Maryland juvenile courts do not have original jurisdiction over cases where the defendant was over the age of 14 at the time of the offense and charged with a serious crime such as murder, first degree assault, robbery, carjacking, firearms offenses and felony sexual offenses. When the juvenile court does not have jurisdiction the police are required to book and charge the defendant in adult court. The juvenile defendants are detained in a secure facility (under state law they must be separated from the adult population) until they see a district or circuit court judge at a bail review hearing. Most defendants in this situation are eligible to have their attorney file for a reverse waiver, which would transfer the case back down to juvenile court. This motion must be filed within 30 days, and DJS is required to do a study before the hearing can take place. If the motion is granted then the defendant will be set for arraignment/ detention hearing in juvenile court, and be subject to supervision by the department until the case is over. If the motion is denied the case will proceed as scheduled in adult court.