• Scott Shellenberger

Baltimore teen sentenced to life for murdering Officer Amy Caprio. The punishment is fitting, prosec

A Baltimore County judge handed down the stiffest possible penalty Wednesday and sentenced Dawnta Harris to life in prison at age 17 for the murder of Officer Amy Caprio.

The West Baltimore teen, with his head bowed, began to cry.

His defense attorneys had urged the judge to give Harris 30 years for murdering Caprio in May 2018. He ran over the police officer in a stolen Jeep Wrangler while his friends were burglarizing homes in Perry Hall.

Harris himself asked Circuit Judge Jan Marshall Alexander for a second chance in life. A defense attorney read aloud his six-page letter to the judge. “I didn’t want to harm Officer Caprio at all; I just wanted to get away,” Harris wrote. “From the bottom of my heart, I thought she was going to move.”

“Show me mercy,” he pleaded.

For nearly two hours, attorneys argued over the teen’s fate. Caprio’s widowed husband told the judge of his searing grief.

“I wake up and wonder what the hell is the point of getting out of bed?” said Tim Caprio, his voice cracking. “There is a massive hole and emptiness in my heart.”

Outside the Baltimore County Circuit Courthouse in Towson, State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said he was satisfied.

“Nobody here is happy today,” Shellenberger said. "All of us would rather have Amy here with us. But we do feel like justice was served.”

The morning hearing brought an emotional end to the murder case against Harris. The teen was convicted in May of killing Caprio. Her tragic death drew attention from around the country; condolences poured in, some from the White House. Meanwhile, the murder case against Harris stoked debate.

The others were inside or behind the homes when Caprio approached the Jeep. Harris stepped on the gas and ran over the 29-year-old officer. The murder of a white police woman by a black teenager set off a firestorm of debate, much of it racially charged.

Prominent Baltimore attorney Warren Brown took up the teen’s defense for free. During the trial, Brown said he felt compelled to help Harris after reading online a call to “string him up by his testicles.” On Wednesday, Brown wasn’t surprised by the sentence.

“It wasn’t unexpected,” he said, outside the courthouse. “The judge was under a lot of pressure.”

Brown said they will file an appeal, which is routine when life sentences are given, especially when the defendant is so young.

During the morning’s hearing, Deputy State’s Attorney Robin Coffin offered Harris’ juvenile record of stealing cars and small-time drug deals. His own mother couldn’t rein him in, having asked Baltimore City officials to hold him in juvenile detention, Coffin noted. READ MORE HERE IN ORIGINAL ARTICLE>>

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