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As Long as We Remember...

February 11, 2011

Missing the Prom

Norman M. Covert

One can’t help but cogitate on when and where justice might be served for the Frederick Yellow Cab driver who was robbed by a shotgun-toting juvenile. His age notwithstanding, Ideres Terral Barker is a full grown man at 16, fully capable of making bad decisions. This time he won’t be headed to the school prom.


Charged as an adult, there is no way to predict how long this investigation/prosecution phase will take out of Mr. Barker’s still formative years. You can bet we are all in for a long run, even if he pleads guilty. The process will surely stress the victims, too.


It is not difficult to see this is a terrible turn of events for Mr. Barker, who should be worrying about his grade point average; his SAT; college plan; scholarships; and school friendships – a key part of being a teenager and “hanging out.”


His family must be mortified and deeply hurt by the clarity of the crime, wary of what the future holds for all of them. The $250,000 bail will keep him at Marcie’s Choice Lane for the next phase of his criminal experience. Police served the arrest warrant on Mr. Barker February 2 at a Walkersville address, which apparently is his home.


It is probable that the community’s sigh of relief at the arrest will be short lived. The family of murdered cab driver Stephen Mauk is being held emotional hostage by the justice system as are owners Jerry Wood and Blaine Young of Frederick’s Yellow Cab, Inc. Now headed into its third year, this case’s “justice delayed” history must frustrate the victims.


Mr. Mauk’s body was found in a Baltimore neighborhood January 26, 2009. A multi-department investigation pointed the finger at Robert Lee Murphy as the man who called for a cab in Frederick, then shot and killed Mr. Mauk.


A mistrial was declared in Baltimore during the first prosecution of Mr. Murphy on multiple charges of armed robbery, murder and use of a hand gun in the commission of a crime. The jury was apparently “hung” by one juror who didn’t agree the evidence was “prima-facie,” that is, sufficient to convict Mr. Murphy.


Mr. Murphy was incarcerated in the Howard County jail on a handgun charge when Baltimore Police served the murder warrant. In a related event, he was indicted two weeks ago in a separate car-jacking incident in Frederick in late 2008. He remains behind bars with the additional charges slated to be tried in the Circuit Court of Frederick County.


Mr. Murphy apparently will be retried in April. It cannot come too soon. The outcome may still be in doubt because of Baltimore’s history of witness intimidation and jury tampering when cases involve inner city crime lords.


Mr. Barker becomes another bitter youth statistic, his life in shambles. He will find himself behind bars a long time before any verdict is rendered. The damage has also been done to yet another Yellow Cab hack, who looked down the muzzle of a shotgun, not certain if his life would end in a matter of seconds.


What was Mr. Barker thinking? He was easily identified by the cab driver; was captured on surveillance video; and didn’t bother to hide his home telephone number. Using a shotgun instead of a handgun should make no difference in the “armed robbery.” It is not illegal for a teenager to own a shotgun, it is a hunting firearm. It is, however, illegal to carry it in a duffel bag, in a public conveyance, to a shopping center and use it in a crime.


The expression here of regret for Mr. Barker’s apparent crime and youth should not be misconstrued as a “bleeding heart” excuse. Justice should be served swiftly, without such encumbrances as Miranda Rights and rules that can “except” critical evidence. We need good police work and judicial punishment guidelines that are capable of discouraging young men like Mr. Barker from stepping beyond the boundaries.


Nineteenth Century Historian William M. Thayer wrote that fabled western cow town Cheyenne, WY, “…suffered for a time by the presence and depredations of ‘roughs,’ who frequented gambling halls and dance halls, until the best citizens, satisfied that stringent measures only would relieve the town of this vicious class, rose in their might and appointed a vigilance committee, who suspended several of the most desperate fellows by the neck from trees and other elevations.


“Their accomplices made a personal application of the hint, and departed for 'parts unknown,' from which time Cheyenne has been one of the most quiet and flourishing young cities on the line of the Union Pacific Railroad….”


We don’t need “Vigilantes” in Frederick; but law enforcement and the courts toil at a disadvantage that must be fixed. Perhaps nothing was going to deter Mr. Barker’s path to crime, for which he will certainly be punished. It just should never have come to this.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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