- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

TOWSON, Md. (AP) — A judge ruled that an inmate killed on a prison bus was first attacked while the vehicle was in Howard County, but was killed in Baltimore County.

The ruling was a setback for Kevin G. Johns Jr., who was trying to have his murder case moved from Baltimore County, where prosecutors have sent more murderers to death row in recent years than any other jurisdiction.

Baltimore County prosecutors have filed notice that they intend to seek the death penalty if Johns, 23, is convicted of killing fellow inmate Philip E. Parker Jr.

Johns’ attorneys had argued that Parker most likely died in Howard County while being transported from Hagerstown to Baltimore.

After Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger ruled Tuesday that the murder charges could be pursued by the Baltimore County state’s attorney’s office, defense attorneys asked for a change of venue.

Defendants in death-penalty cases in Maryland have the automatic right to move their trial to another jurisdiction.

Johns and Parker were among 35 inmates on the 75-mile ride from Hagerstown to Baltimore.

The bus traveled through Washington, Frederick, Howard and Baltimore counties before entering Baltimore. Parker was found dead when the bus stopped at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, also known as Supermax, in Baltimore.

Two inmates testified at the hearing that Johns began choking Parker in Howard County and attacked him again when Parker began moving as the bus crossed the Patapsco River into Baltimore County.

At one point, Johns used the waist chain to which his wrists were shackled, the inmates said.

“He was choking him out,” said Patrick Cook, who said that he was seated directly behind Johns on the bus. “The whole time [Johns] was doing it, he says, ‘This is what I do best.’ ”

Johns, who was handcuffed, shackled and wearing padded mitts, watched each witness, laughing and smiling at times, while occasionally shaking his head.

Johns is serving a 35-year sentence for killing his uncle, and a sentence of life in prison without parole for murdering Armad Cloude, his 16-year-old cellmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown.

Parker was serving a 3 -year prison sentence for attempting to rob two youths with a broken pellet gun.

On the day before he died, Parker testified on Johns’ behalf at a sentencing hearing in Hagerstown, telling the court that Johns needed psychiatric help. Johns testified during the hearing that he likely would kill again if he didn’t receive treatment.

Three of the five correctional officers aboard the bus were fired, one was suspended for five days, and one was reprimanded.

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