Judge Hands Down Sentences to Men Convicted of Fatal Shooting on East Belvedere Avenue

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Two Baltimore men were sentenced in Baltimore City Circuit Court on May 15 for the deadly shooting of 31-year-old Cordelle Bruce in 2020 in what one defense attorney described as a drug deal gone sideways.

Christopher Brown, 22, and Daran Horton, 23, were convicted of Bruce’s murder in September 2022 when a jury found the pair guilty of first-degree murder, having a handgun on their person, and illegal possession of a firearm. Brown was also found guilty of firearm use in a felony violent crime and possessing a firearm as a minor.

Bruce’s brother, Cornelius Bruce, was killed in a retaliatory shooting less than a week later. Jimmy Murphy was found guilty of murder, attempted murder, arson, altering evidence, and multiple weapons charges on March 9. He is next scheduled to appear in court on July 7.

Judge Paul Alpert, who presided over the defendants’ trial last year, sentenced Brown to life with the possibility of parole for first-degree murder and a concurrent 15 years for firearm use in a felony violent crime, merging the aforementioned charges. Horton was sentenced to 45 years for first-degree murder and a concurrent three years for illegal possession of a firearm, while also having his additional charges merged.

“Mr. Brown does maintain his innocence in this case,” said his defense attorney, Linda Zeit.

According to the prosecutor, Brown, Horton, and Bruce were arguing over a drug deal involving marijuana outside the Alameda Shopping Center on Jan. 14, 2020. The two men were accused of fatally shooting Bruce later that day on the 1100 block of E. Belvedere Avenue.

Zeit noted that Brown, who was 19 years old at the time of the shooting, had a traumatic childhood and a lack of family stability. A family member then read a letter to the judge written by Brown’s mother.

“Mr. Bruce and his family deserve justice, but not like this,” Brown’s mother wrote, claiming her son to be innocent. “My son, like all humans, is not perfect. For him to be considered a murderer does not make sense.”

Brown’s older brother and childhood friend also spoke during Monday’s proceedings, describing him as a loving man. Brown later apologized to Bruce’s family for their loss.

“I am innocent and I’m not going to stop fighting until I prove my innocence,” Brown said prior to his sentencing.

Later in the proceeding, defense attorney Josh Insley reminded Judge Alpert of his unsuccessful attempt at trial to change Horton’s murder charge to accessory after the fact since he did not fire a gun. It was “a big difference” that the jury found Horton didn’t fire any gun, Insley said.

“There’s no evidence he commanded Mr. Brown to do anything,” Insley added.

Bruce’s family members declined to speak during Monday’s hearing.

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