Carnell Scott was 17 years old when his uncle orchestrated a plan to commit a robbery that resulted in the death of a beloved bus driver.
Baltimore, MD (May 20, 2021) - Last week, a Baltimore City judge ruled in favor of a modification request that resulted in the release of 52-year old Carnell Scott. A jury found Scott guilty of Felony Murder, Attempted Robbery with a Deadly Weapon and Use of a Handgun in the Commission of a Crime of Violence for the fatal shooting of Melvin Louis Wilson, 83, during a failed robbery attempt which occurred on September 4, 1985.
Scott lived with his uncle, who orchestrated the robbery and is believed to be the one who shot Wilson. On that afternoon in 1985, the victim, Melvin Wilson drove to the downtown bank at Fayette and Colvin Streets when he was approached by Scott and his uncle, George Sutton, who attempted to rob him. Wilson resisted, and Sutton shot the victim once in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun. Both Sutton and Scott fled immediately, and Wilson was pronounced dead at the scene. According to Court documents, Sutton attempted to rob the victim for money to support his addiction to heroin.
After his arrest, Scott cooperated with police and confessed to his role in the crime. The original prosecutor on this case wrote to the Parole Commission in 1986 and stated, “This defendant was a “go along” with the co-defendant, his Uncle, George Sutton, who the State believes was the actual shooter.” Scott was 17 years old at the time of the crime and has spent the last 34 years in prison. After a thorough review, led by the Sentencing Review Unit’s (SRU) Chief Becky Feldman, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby agreed to support Wilson’s release.
The SRU partnered with University of Maryland Professor Brian Saccenti and Edward Kenney, Assistant Public Defender at the Office of the Public Defender on this case review. Professor Saccenti taught the Juvenile Lifer Advocacy Clinic at the University Of Maryland School Of Law and brought the case to the SRU.
“Mr. Scott was incredibly young and impressionable at the time of this offense, yet he still cooperated with police and felt remorse for his crimes from the onset,” said State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “He spent 34 years of his life in prison and used that time to assume full responsibility for the trauma his actions inflicted on Mr. Wilson’s family and the community.”
This case was Scott’s first adult incarceration. During his time in prison, he obtained his GED, completed several college courses, and received certificates for participating in adult literacy and non-violence workshops. Scott held various positions during his incarceration, including: working in the dining room preparing meals for corrections staff, serving as a unit clerk, working in the furniture restoration unit; and working as a chemical/blood specialist. While incarcerated, Scott matured through adulthood and developed a love for his religion. After his father and mother both passed away from cancer, Scott helped raise $4,500 for cancer research in their memory. He has not yet pursued post-conviction relief because of the responsibility that he felt for Wilson’s death. He understands that he committed a wrong and that he had to serve his time as a result.
During his most recent parole hearing, on May 6, 2020, The Maryland Parole Commission referred Scott for a risk assessment. The Commissioner stated, “The Offender has served almost 35 years on his life sentence. He has incurred no infractions since 2010 and is currently working with Blood Spill and a Special Detail on COVID-19. He was 17 years old when the crime occurred; and he demonstrates maturity and thoughtfulness that suggests that he will pose little, if any, risk to public safety.”
The University of Maryland’s Law and Social Work Program will support Scott upon his release, similar to the support provided to many other individuals who are released from prison back into society. This program will assist him with securing housing, job training, and placement services. Scott’s aunt and sister are also eager to assist him with reentry and will serve as instrumental guides for reintegrating.
The victim in this case, Melvin Louis Wilson, was a well-loved school bus driver in the community. He was known as “Mr. Sonny.” Unfortunately, despite extensive efforts, the SRU office was unable to locate any of Mr. Wilson’s surviving family members.
“Carnell Scott is an example of the importance of second chances,” said his attorney Edward Kenney. “It would have been easy to give up on life when you are serving a life sentence. But he didn't. He has taken advantage of all of the opportunities given to him. He has spent his days on growth, rehabilitation, and accepting responsibility. He is a kind and thoughtful man with a lot to offer our community. I could not be happier for him and his family --- especially his sister who was only nine years old when Carnell was incarcerated.”
The Sentencing Review Unit (SRU) uses the following two factors to prioritize cases that are capable of having an initial review but which are not wholly sufficient for a recommendation to support release:
- Individuals who have a documented serious medical condition according to CDC that places them at a higher risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID-19;
- Individuals over the age of 60 who have spent more than 25 years in prison on a life sentence OR Individuals who have spent more than 25 years in prison on a life sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile (age 17 and under).