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Different decade, same sentence for double-murder convict

Grade’s retrial followed long-delayed opinion from Court of Appeals

Jaron Tyree Grade, who became a symbol of justice delayed when Maryland’s top court overturned his double-murder conviction and life sentence five-and-a-half years after hearing arguments, was resentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being convicted again of the September 2003 slayings at his retrial in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Grade was first tried and convicted of murder in 2004 and his case was heard by the Court of Appeals on Oct. 3, 2007. On April 3, 2013, the high court unanimously threw out his conviction and ordered a new trial after concluding that his right to a fair trial was violated when the judge replaced a juror with an alternate without first notifying the defense.

At Grade’s retrial in April, a jury again found him guilty of murder in the killings of Broadus Funderburke and Ricardo Cabera on Sept. 14. 2003. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Martin sentenced Grade to life in prison plus 20 years.

“It’s frustrating to retry a case,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said Thursday.

“It’s incredibly frustrating when you’re looking at 10 years down the road; witnesses memories begin to fade,” he added. “We were happy to be successful.”

Grade’s long wait for a high-court decision was one of many The Daily Record noted in 2011, 2012 and 2013 news reports on delays at the Court of Appeals.

Kevin C. Alston waited the longest — more than seven years — before the Court of Appeals ruled last June 26 that he was improperly sentenced to a mandatory five-year prison term for illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Alston’s court victory was pyrrhic, as he served his illegal sentence during the time it took the high court to issue its ruling after hearing argument on May 3, 2006.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, who took the helm July 6, pledged last September that the court would issue decisions no later than the Aug. 31 after it hears argument in the cases.