Last month, the Baltimore Sun published an article discussing the criminal conviction of 51-year-old Karla Porter, of White Marsh, Baltimore, for the first degree murder of her husband, William “Ray” Porter. The jury heard five days of testimony and deliberated for approximately five hours before handing down the verdict. Porter was also found guilty of use of a handgun in a violent crime, conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder.
At her trial, Porter admitted to hiring a hitman to shoot her 49-year-old husband on March 1, 2010, at a local gas station that William owned. Porter claimed that William had been abusing her for years, and the murder-for-hire was the only way she could end the mistreatment. According to the story, Porter’s case was the first time the defense of spousal abuse has been raised in Maryland in a murder-for-hire case.
Porter’s defense attorney contended that the spousal abuse defense was the only viable option as Porter confessed to homicide detectives shortly after the murder, and hoped for the jury to convict Porter of the lesser charge of manslaughter. In order to succeed on her theory of self-defense, Porter would have had to prove that: she believed she was in immediate danger, the force she used was no more than was necessary, escape would have been unsafe, and she was not the initial aggressor.
Prosecutors countered Porter’s defense by arguing that murder was premeditated as demonstrated by the fact that Porter searched some time for a hitman and offered two others money to kill William.
Under Maryland Code § 2-201(a), murder is in the first degree if it is:
(1) a deliberate, premeditated, and willful killing;
(2) committed by lying in wait;
(3) committed by poison; or
(4) committed in the perpetration of or an attempt to perpetrate [various other crimes such as arson, burglary, kidnapping or rape].
Under Maryland Code § 2-201(b), a person who commits a murder in the first shall be sentenced to death, imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, imprisonment for life.
Three others: Seamus Coyle, Porter’s nephew, Susan M. Datta, Porter’s sister, and Walter Bishop, the hit man, were previously convicted and sent to prison for their roles in the offense. According to the report, Coyle found Bishop, and Datta obtained the gun used in the murder. In addition, Calvin Lee Mowers, Bishop’s driver in the offense, and Matthew Phillip Brown, who went with him, were sentenced to life in prison with all but twenty years suspended.
Prosecutors had originally sought the death penalty for Porter, but it was repealed by the legislature while the case was pending. John Cox, the Deputy State’s Attorney, commented that Porter’s defense was “a disgrace” to victims of domestic violence and the use of a self-defense argument was the “final act of desperation for Karla Porter.”
The knowledgeable attorneys of Brassel Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience defending individuals that have been charged with violent crimes in Maryland. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel Alexander & Rice, LLC today.