By Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dawnta Harris, 16, sits in the Baltimore County Detention Center awaiting trial as an adult for the killing of Baltimore County Police Officer First Class, Amy Caprio. On May 30, just nine days after Caprio’s death, a Baltimore County grand jury indicted Harris, Darrell Ward, 15, Derrick Matthews, 15 and Eugene Genius,
17, for first-degree murder, burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary.
Harris is being represented by two of the best defense attorneys in the state; J. Wyndal Gordon and Warren A. Brown.
“This is not a kid that has a murderous spirit at all. This is a kid who panicked,” Brown told Fox 45 News. “…A lot is on the line,” he said.
Indeed, a lot is on the line, but it is a familiar position for both Brown and Gordon, who decided to take the Harris case pro bono.
Brown, a veteran of over 5,000 criminal cases since being admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1980, has been a player in Maryland’s legal arena for decades. In the 1990’s Brown spent thousands of his own dollars annually around the Christmas holiday, buying back guns off the street at $50 a pop, no questions asked. In 2005, Brown represented Dontee Stokes, the man who shot defrocked priest Maurice Blackwell in 2002, in Stokes’ sexual abuse case against Blackwell (Stokes was an altar boy at Blackwell’s church when the abuse began). Brown got a conviction in the case, which garnered national headlines at the height of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Brown, who was named one of Maryland’s “super lawyers” five years in a row (2007-2011), has also experienced his share of adverse moments in the spotlight.
In 2015, Brown’s son Matthew was arrested on charges of human trafficking connected to three underage, teenage girls allegedly forced into prostitution. The younger Brown was sentenced to two years last July. Just weeks earlier on July 1, Warren Brown’s stepson, Louis “Cody” Young, was gunned down at a West Baltimore gas station and Matthew Brown was allegedly the gunman’s target.
Brown has spent much of his distinguished career, as well as instances in his private life, fighting to keep young Black men and boys from being devoured by the criminal justice system.
Gordon has been licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland since 1995, the same year he graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law.
In 2006, Gordon was appointed lead standby counsel for John Allen Muhammad, the so-called “Beltway Sniper,” thrusting the attorney on to the national stage. Gordon has maintained a national presence as a legal commentator on several cable news network shows such as, CNN, TruTV and Headline News and he has been a part of several high profile cases prior to teaming with Brown to defend Harris.
Gordon represents Aaron Winston, who at 5’6”, 150 pounds, was allegedly brutalized and had his arm broken by 6’2”, 350 pound Baltimore police officer Alexandros Haziminas. Winston was acquitted of assault and other charges connected to his arrest that led to him allegedly being beaten up by the behemoth Baltimore cop. A lawsuit by Gordon on Winston’s behalf is pending.
Gordon also represents the family of Korryn Gaines, the 23-year old mother of two who was shot to death by Baltimore County police on Aug. 1, 2016, who was awarded $37 million in damages Feb. 16 in a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.
Now, Gordon and Brown have decided to defend Harris, this 16-year old boy at the center of a tragic series of events that took the life of a young woman and threatens to incarcerate him and three other boys for decades. Harris has been branded by virulent online trolls as every vile thing from a “nigger” to the devil and everything in between. He is none of those things, he is a child that made a horrific mistake.
In a commentary by E.R. Shipp, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in residence at Morgan State University, Brown said, “In taking on the case pro bono, J. Wyndal and I are saying, `He matters. He’s not garbage. He’s clothed and covered with our credibility.’”
A lot is on the line.
Sean Yoes is the Baltimore editor of the AFRO.