Prosecution Says Two Homicide Defendants ‘Finessed’ the Victim in Closing Arguments

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The prosecution began closing arguments on the last day of trial for two homicide defendants on Sept. 9 before Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Paul E. Alpert.

“Hard work, finesse, and money are the motto and three words that Brown and Horton lived by,” said the prosecutor. On Jan. 14, 2020, he explained this motto inspired the defendants to commit murder; hard work was planning the murder, and finesse was pretending to be friends with the victim, 31-year-old Cordelle Bruce. 

Daran Horton, 23, along with Christopher Brown, 22, were facing charges in connection to the fatal shooting of Bruce on the 1100 block of E. Belvedere Avenue. Horton was later found guilty of first-degree murder, illegal possession of a firearm, and having a handgun on his person, while Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder, firearm use in a felony violent crime, having a handgun on his person, illegal possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm as a minor.

The co-defendants are currently scheduled for sentencing on May 15, 2023.

“I appreciate how the state is hanging on the word finesse because that’s what they are trying to do, despite their witness saying something different, ” said Josh Insley, Horton’s defense counsel, during his closing argument. 

Insley argued that the prosecutor was trying to make the jurors think Brown and Horton were trying to avoid the police. Horton tried leaving out of fear after being shot at; he was not running because he was guilty he was leaving because he was not safe, said Insley.

“I’d leave too if someone shot up my car,” said Insley. 

After talking to witnesses on the scene, the detective suspected a blue Honda CRV to be the getaway car but could not find a car matching that description. Insley argued that it was not until after the detective reviewed the surveillance footage that he started looking at Brown and Horton as a suspect. 

Brown had no reason to kill the victim, said Zeit, claiming the detective had tunnel vision and twisted the evidence to fit their narrative.

According to the defense, Horton and Brown waived their rights and voluntarily talked to the police for hours as well as handed over their phones.

No evidence proved Brown or Horton had anything to do with the victim’s death, argued defense counsel for Brown, saying there were no phone records that prove his client was on the street where the murder took place.

He also pointed out that no one identified Brown as the victim’s shooter.

Zeit pointed out that no one identified Brown as the shooter. A 911 caller contacted police on the scene and described seeing two black men running, with one wearing a blue and gray hoodie. Zeit questioned why this witness had not been brought in, despite giving their full name, number as well as staying on the scene to speak with detectives.

“We have no way of knowing if the caller actually heard what she said,” said Zeit. 

“The state’s case was built on speculation,” said Zeit. 

The victim was involved in a dangerous occupation selling marijuana, described Zeit. She argued there could have been a number of reasons or people that could have had problems with the victim besides Brown.

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