- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

BALTIMORE Two Harford County men accused of murdering a intruder in their East Baltimore warehouse in June 2000 should not be punished for protecting themselves, their defense attorneys said yesterday in court.
In their opening remarks in Baltimore Circuit Court, defense attorneys for Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer, both 36 and of Fallston, said the men fatally shot Tygon Walker in self-defense.
"It was a justified shooting," said Mr. Der's attorney, Joseph Murtha. "Kenny Der and Darrell Kifer had reasonable fear and acted accordingly in discharging their firearms with the belief that Mr. Walker was going to kill them."
The defendants, arraigned last January on first-degree murder charges, have admitted shooting Mr. Walker with a shotgun and 45 mm semiautomatic pistol after he broke into the East Baltimore warehouse of their furniture and wood-refinishing business.
Prosecutors, led by State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, intend to prove the two "feloniously, willfully and of deliberately premeditated malice aforethought did kill and murder" Mr. Walker, according to court papers.
Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer have opted for a joint bench trial before Circuit Judge John M. Glynn rather than a jury trial. They sat before the judge yesterday inside Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse while Assistant State's Attorney Mark Cohen presented evidence against them.
One piece of evidence Mr. Kifer's official statement to police described how the defendants had been working on the ground floor of their warehouse on the night of the shooting when they heard a loud noise upstairs and decided to investigate.
Armed, they encountered an intruder on the second floor, according to Mr. Kifer's statement. Hunched in the dark with an unknown object in his hand, the intruder said he was going to kill the them.
"He had something in his hand," Mr. Kifer said. "I thought it may have been a gun. I have no idea."
It was later determined by police after Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer had killed Mr. Walker that the intruder had been holding an 18-inch-long homemade sledge-hammer.
Police records show there had been several break-ins at the warehouse in the months before the shooting.
Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer argue they were not lying in wait for another break-in. Mr. Kifer said they always carried their guns with them when they went to work at the warehouse at night.
In a similar case in March 2001 in Baltimore County, a grand jury acquitted two brothers Dominic "Tony" and Matthew Geckle of murdering an unarmed man and injuring two others who broke into their concrete plant.
The Geckle brothers had endured a string of late-night break-ins at their Glyndon business and were guarding it on a hunch the burglars might return. A grand jury ruled the brothers were protected from prosecution under self-defense.
Sources close to the case of Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer have suggested race is a factor in their trial. Mr. Der is the eldest son of two Chinese immigrants, Mr. Kifer is white, and Mr. Walker was black. Everyone involved in the Geckle case, including the man who died, was white.
When Mr. Der and Mr. Kifer were arraigned last year, Miss Jessamy told The Washington Times that "race has had nothing to do" with the prosecution of two men.
Asked yesterday if the defense's decision to forgo a jury trial was racially motivated, Mr. Murtha said it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter.
David B. Irwin, who is representing Mr. Kifer, said: "If I got a loser, I want a jury. If I got a winner, I want a judge."


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