Baltimore's Preventable Murders
Maryland Public Policy Institute author Sean Kennedy has tracked the startling number of Baltimore City homicide defendants who should not have been free to commit their alleged crimes.
Maryland Public Policy Institute author Sean Kennedy has tracked the startling number of Baltimore City homicide defendants who should not have been free to commit their alleged crimes. However, instead of being behind bars, lax sentencing for prior convictions left them free.
The MPPI report, Baltimore's Preventable Murders, released earlier this week tracks 110 homicide suspects between January 2019 and July 2020.1 Seventy-seven had been previously convicted of a serious crime by Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's office since 2015. Of those 77 previously convicted, 61 (79%) faced statutory jail terms that should have kept them in prison beyond the date that they committed their alleged homicides.
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The MPPI report also profiles five homicide defendants who allegedly killed within months of their prior conviction and sentencing. For example, one suspect, James Dunbar, whose homicide case is still pending, was convicted of a handgun charge and released for time served less than three months before he is accused of killing a man in 2019. Another repeat drug and gun offender was convicted of dealing drugs and violating his probation six months before he allegedly shot and killed someone in 2020.
"The citizens of Baltimore are bearing the violent burden of a state's attorney who is failing to effectively prosecute and incarcerate violent offenders," said report author Sean Kennedy, a visiting fellow at MPPI. "Because of lax plea agreements negotiated between convicted offenders and prosecutors, sentences often fall far short of the statutory sentencing guidelines for the crimes committed."
Among 110 suspects in homicides occurring between January 2019 and July 2020:
82% had serious criminal convictions before the homicide;
59% had previously committed a weapons crime or used a firearm in another offense;
44% had prior violent crime convictions; and
41% had previously violated their probation or parole.
Among those 77 homicide suspects previously convicted of serious crimes since 2015:
62% had a conviction for weapons or firearm-involved offense;
44% had violent offense convictions; and
47% violated probation/parole.
According to Kennedy, these findings likely undercount the number of homicide suspects in Baltimore City who have prior convictions. Many critical data for studying this trend are either unavailable to the public or remain obscured by improper data management.
Additionally, two-thirds of Baltimore's murders go without an arrest. Consequently, whether the individuals who committed those unsolved crimes had prior convictions is, thus, remains unknowable until an arrest is made.
"The sad truth is, too many killers are free to continue to kill and maim other victims in Baltimore," said Kennedy. "Not only are arrest rates too low for those who've committed homicide, but sentences for other violent offenders — who are likely to commit future homicides — are too often let free early.
Kenney concludes: "State's Attorney Mosby must change her office's proclivity for negotiating lax plea agreements so that violent offenders are not too soon freed to roam Baltimore's streets and increase the ranks of the city's killers."
Read the full report on Baltimore's Preventable Murders: Baltimore's Preventable Murders, Maryland Public Policy Institute (mdpolicy.org) https://www.mdpolicy.org/research/detail/baltimores-preventable-murders