A city judge declined Thursday to order a new trial for the man found guilty of killing a frum 11-year-old girl in Northwest Baltimore more than four decades ago, a victory for prosecutors who sought to prevent the release of another high-profile perpetrator under a court ruling that has freed dozens of convicted murderers.
The decision means Wayne Stephen Young will remain in prison for the 1969 abduction and death of Esther Lebowitz, a case that has kept the city’s Jewish community on edge through years of appeals and challenges.
“I’m not excited about keeping anyone in jail for life, and it doesn’t make me happy, but in this situation that’s where he belongs,” said Neil Schachter, president of the Northwest Citizens Patrol, one of the nation’s first crime-watch organizations. “He’s a very dangerous person.”
Young’s latest challenge was particularly alarming to Schachter and others because he based it on the 2012 ruling by the state’s highest court that found that improper jury instructions had rendered many convictions before 1980 invalid.
In the so-called Unger ruling, the court found that juries were wrongly told that they could interpret the law as they wished, which led to unfair outcomes.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward Hargadon said Thursday that the jurors who decided Young’s verdict in 1972 were adequately advised of how to try the case.
“While this Court acknowledges that the instructions could have been more crisp, the test is not whether the instructions were perfect, but whether they were, as a whole, sufficient,” Hargadon wrote in his decision. “After examining the instructions in their totality, the Court finds them to be sufficient and constitutionally sound.”
Young’s defense attorney, Erica J. Suter, said she would appeal Hargadon’s ruling. Michael Millemann, a University of Maryland law professor who has been closely involved in several similar cases, called the judge’s decision “very disappointing.”
Read more: THE BALTIMORE SUN