- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 28, 2004

BALTIMORE — A jury spared two members of a murderous drug gang from federal death sentences yesterday, instead deciding that the men should spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The jury deliberated for about five hours in the case against Keon Moses, 21, and Michael Taylor, 20, before bringing their unanimous decision to U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake.

The jury convicted Moses and Taylor earlier this month for conspiring to sell crack cocaine from 1999 to 2003.

In addition, Moses was convicted of four counts of using a firearm in relation to a drug conspiracy in the deaths of Ronald Harris, 23; Gregory Spain, 30, and Robert McManus. Moses also was convicted of using a firearm in a drug conspiracy that resulted in the wounding of Charles Brockington, who survived to testify against him.

Taylor also was convicted of using a firearm in a drug conspiracy in the death of Mr. McManus and witness tampering.

The trial, which lasted nearly four months, was Baltimore’s first federal death-penalty case in more than five years.

Taylor’s attorney, Robert Waldman, said he thought that, in opting for life sentences without parole, the jury considered the defendents’ ages.

“I think that this jury was also very impressed with the youthfulness of these fellows, and that this jury required much more before imposing such a final solution,” Mr. Waldman said.

Authorities said the men were linked to eight killings and other shootings to assist their illegal business. Prosecutors argued Moses and Taylor undermined the criminal justice system by killing Mr. McManus in February 2002 to prevent him from testifying against Moses.

Defense attorneys frequently referred to the “toxic atmosphere” of the West Baltimore section where the men grew up — one of the city’s poorest areas where drug dealing and violence are rampant. Taylor and Moses were members of a gang called the Lexington Terrace Boys.

“In their world, it was kill or be killed,” Moses’ attorney Carroll McCabe told jurors Tuesday in her closing argument.

Witnesses testified that the gang was responsible for a variety of crimes to protect its members and drug trade, including murders, attempted murders, witness tampering, arson and armed robbery.

Defendant Aaron Foster, who didn’t face the death penalty in this case, was convicted on a conspiracy charge, witness tampering, using a firearm in a drug conspiracy and carjacking. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison in this case, but could face the death penalty in a case scheduled for trial next year.