Baltimore’s Preventable Murders:
The Role of Prior Convictions and Sentencing in Future Homicides
From January 2015 to June 2022, there were over 2,500 murders recorded in Baltimore, tallying more than 300 killings each year for seven consecutive years. That bloody toll consistently ranks Baltimore as America’s Big City murder capital with a homicide rate rivaling the world’s most dangerous cities.
While there are many reasons for Baltimore’s persistently high level of violence, this study examines what role the accused killers’ sentences for prior offenses played in their opportunity to commit the alleged homicide. It seeks to answer the following questions: How many of Baltimore City’s murderers could have been stopped by the justice system before the murder occurred? And what, if any, are the implications of the prevailing system for sentencing violent criminals?
This analysis demonstrates that if the homicide defendants had received and served their eligible sentences for previous offenses, a majority would not have been free to commit their alleged homicides. Scores of Baltimore’s homicide victims would have lived if the city’s justice system — in this case led by the chief prosecutor’s office — had succeeded in imposing stronger sentences on future homicide suspects.
This study finds:
- Among 110 suspects in homicides occurring between January 2019 and July 2020:
- 82% had serious criminal convictions prior to the homicide;
- 59% had previously committed a weapons crime or used a firearm in another offense;
- 44% had prior violent crime convictions; and
- 41% had previously violated their probation or parole.
- Among those 77 homicide suspects previously convicted of serious crimes since 2015:
- 62% had a conviction for weapons or firearm-involved offense;
- 44% had violent offense convictions; and
- 47% violated probation/parole.
Of the 110 charged homicide suspects studied, 90 had been convicted of serious offenses prior to the murder and 77 suspects were convicted of such crimes following Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s assuming office in 2015. Further, 79% (61) of those convicted since 2015 faced jail terms that exceeded the time period from their disposition to the homicide incident. If the alleged killers had been incarcerated for their eligible sentence, they would not have been free to commit the alleged homicide.
 Baltimore Sun, Homicides Database, 2007-2022 YTD, https://homicides.news.baltimoresun.com/
 Ranking includes US Cities over 500,000 residents. Smaller cities sometimes see larger homicide rates; Theodoric Meyer, “Who Wants to Run the Deadliest Big City in America?,” Politico Magazine, May 29, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/05/29/baltimore-mayors-race-crime-sheila-dixon-286950; Angelo Young, “Most Dangerous Cities in the World, 24/7 Wall Street, July 23, 2019, https://247wallst.com/special-report/2019/07/23/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world/; “Baltimore homicide rate is on a record high, deadlier than Detroit and Chicago,” Associated Press, September 25, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/09/25/baltimore-homicide-murder-rate-fbi-statistics-death-crime-killings/1426739002/