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Run-on Sentence

Robert Long's killer gets life in prison

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 3/31/2010

Convicted of murdering Robert Long, his plea for a new trial rejected, Demetrius Smith spoke in circuit court for the first time: "I didn't do this," he told Judge Timothy Doory on March 22. "They know I didn't do this. They know who did it."

For just a moment, the judge appeared stunned.

Doory had just presided over an hour of argument between Smith's lawyer, public defender Anne-Marie Gering, and the prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney Richard Gibson. At issue was whether Gibson had properly disclosed all the information he had to Gering, particularly the news that a bystander had been found with Robert Long's cell phone. Gering also argued, again, that allowing the jury to hear that Smith was a heroin dealer tainted the trial, and that Doory's own instruction to the jury to "do the best you can" was an improper directive. Doory rejected these claims, noting that there had been several hearings on the drug-dealing issue and that Gering could have questioned the person who had Long's cell phone after she learned of him shortly before the Feb. 22 hearing. Doory ruled that his comment to the jury, to urge it to keep deliberating, changed nothing.

The judge then heard from Robert Long's mother, Grace Bouvier, who choked back tears while telling him that she misses her son. "I'll never be able to get him back," Bouvier said. "Our family is not the same."

Before sentencing Smith, Doory asked if the defendant had anything to say; after hearing his allegation that he didn't kill Long, Doory asked Smith to be more specific.

"It's in the paper," Smith said loudly, apparently referring to a City Paper story about the case ("Anatomy of a Murder Trial," Feature, Feb. 24), which raised questions about others who were in contact with Long just before his murder. "The detective knows it."

Smith said he feels sorry for Long's family and turned to face Bouvier, flanked by daughters Tammy and Karen Long. "But I never did this," he yelled. "I never seen your son. That man never took nothing from me!"

With testimony from an eyewitness, the prosecution contended that Long had stolen a package of heroin worth at least $7,000 from an abandoned house where Smith had stashed it. The witness, Mark Bartlett, had previously sold the same brand of heroin for Smith, he testified. He had known Robert Long since kindergarten. The jury convicted Smith largely on Bartlett's testimony, discounting the defense's claim that Jose Morales ("With Impunity," Feature, Jun. 11), Long's longtime boss and a violent career criminal, had a hand in the murder. Morales had threatened Long's life after Long agreed to testify against him in a series of theft cases that could have sent Morales to prison for decades.

Police and prosecutors said they never found any link between Long's murder and Morales; his execution at Smith's hand was just a freakish coincidence in the annals of Baltimore's underworld.

"I heard all the facts and made my own determination," Doory told Smith. "I believe the jury got this right. I believe this was nothing personal, only business. You had a business; that business had to be protected. Word had to go out. You shot the man. Executed him."

Doory sentenced Smith to life in prison for the murder and added 18 years for using the gun. He told Smith his rights of appeal.

"You gonna be alright. I love you," Smith's sister, Cheyenne Ward, told him as sheriff's deputies led Smith out of the court room, hands cuffed behind his back.

"I love you, too," Smith replied. Then, as he passed Long's family, "Sorry."

"Don't say sorry to me," Tammy Long replied acidly.

Court officials made sure the two families remained separated, and that they left through different doors.

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