For Immediate Release 1/18/2017
In 1997, Robert D. Harris was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for hiring someone to murder his fiancé in Violetville Park. He was granted a new trial in 2012, and yet another new trial in 2017. Last week, he was found guilty of first degree murder, two handgun violations including the use of a handgun during the commission of a crime of violence, solicitation to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.
Assistant State’s Attorneys Paul O’Connor and Aaron Parker prosecuted the case.
Approximately 20 years ago, Harris hired Russell Brill for $20,000 to kill his fiancé, Teresa McLeod, in an effort to collect on her insurance policy. The plan was for Brill to make it look like a robbery as McLeod made her way to work. However, Brill failed to follow through on the plan.
Harris then contacted Brill with a new scheme. Harris would take McLeod on a walk through Violetville Park in southwest Baltimore, during which Brill was to feign a robbery of the couple, shoot Harris in the leg for authenticity, and kill McLeod. Brill executed the plan this time, murdering McLeod with six shots on January 26, 1996.
In 1997, Brill pled guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison, with all but 30 years suspended. That same year, a jury convicted Harris, and he was sentenced to life. However, Harris's conviction was overturned 12 years later because a judge found that the State did not fully disclose the details of the cooperative agreements of witnesses who testified against Harris.
O’Connor was assigned to re-try the case in 2012 and obtained convictions on first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to commit murder, and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. Harris was again sentenced to Life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The 2012 conviction was appealed, and Harris was given yet another trial because the trial judge did not allow the Defense to cross-examine the lead detective in the case regarding alleged overtime abuse by the detective—the Defense argued that the overtime issue struck at the detective’s overall credibility.
On January 13, 2017, O’Connor and Parker secured a guilty verdict on all charges in Harris’ third trial for McLeod’s murder.
“I hope this is it for this case. McLeod’s family has certainly been through enough having to participate in three separate trials,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor, who is the Chief of the District Court Chief for the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City and oversees the office’s staff assigned to all three district courthouses, tapped Parker—a misdemeanor attorney—to serve as co-counsel as an opportunity for Parker to gain experience.
“Aaron did an exceptional job with legal research, and put on testimony for four of our witnesses,” continued O’Connor.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that she was pleased with last week’s outcome, citing the strength of the family and the willingness of witnesses to remain engaged over a 20 year period.
“Legal experts will tell you that a case tends to get weaker as time passes; so, I’m thankful that the family, the witnesses, and the Office of the State’s Attorney remained committed to keeping this man who conspired and carried out this ruthless act accountable,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “Hopefully this verdict will bring closure to a family that has withstood this horrific ordeal for more than 2 decades.”