Tucker was 17 years old when he participated in a robbery that led to the death of a minister dedicated to helping the deaf.
Baltimore, MD (June 25, 2021) –This week, a Baltimore City judge ruled in favor of a post-conviction settlement that resulted in the release of 64-year old Kenneth Maurice Tucker, believed to be one of the longest-serving “juvenile lifers” in Maryland. Tucker was 17 years old at the time of the crime and spent the last 46 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 Tucker’s release.
Mr. Tucker was sent to prison in 1974, at age 17, for his role in the attempted robbery and fatal shooting of 58-year old Reverend Louis W. Foxwell, Sr. Mr. Tucker’s co-defendant fired the shot that ultimately took Rev. Foxwell’s life.
Mr. Tucker pled guilty to felony first degree murder and use of a handgun, and was sentenced to Life plus 10 years. At his sentencing, Mr. Tucker’s defense counsel said that Tucker was “extremely remorseful.” His co-defendant took his case to trial and was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 55 years. He was paroled nearly 30 years ago and went on to work for the State.
In 1992, in recognition of Mr. Tucker’s demonstrated rehabilitation, the Maryland Parole Commission recommended that Tucker be placed on work release. However, in 1993, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) suspended its work release program for inmates serving life sentences. (Baltimore Sun, June 4, 1993, 134 lifers taken from prerelease system Midnight move to higher security follows murder, escapes - Baltimore Sun). Additionally, beginning in 1995, a succession of Maryland governors refused to grant parole to ‘lifers,’ critically abolishing parole for people like Mr. Tucker.
Had Tucker elected a jury trial, he may have been eligible for release between 2013 – 2018 under the Court of Appeals’ decision rendered in Unger v. State (2012). The Unger decision ultimately resulted in the release of 200 lifers who are now contributing to their communities. (The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 12, 2018, 200 elderly lifers got out of prison en masse. Here’s what happened next. (inquirer.com)) However, since Tucker pled guilty in front of a judge and not a jury, he has remained in prison.
According to Tucker’s defense attorney, Sonia Kumar of the ACLU, Mr. Tucker has worked steadily to improve himself and live a life of meaning. Attorney Kumar noted that Tucker has always taken full responsibility for his actions and feels enormous remorse for his role in Foxwell’s death. This remorse, she expressed, has fueled his commitment to anti-violence and victim awareness advocacy from behind prison walls. At the sentence review hearing, Mr. Tucker took full responsibility for his actions as a teenager and described his efforts to make amends from behind prison walls. Mr. Tucker will turn 65 later this month.
“Mr. Tucker is an example of someone who has transformed their life,” said State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “While the pain his actions inflicted on Reverend Foxwell’s family and the community can never be reversed, it is clear he is a very different person with a new outlook on life.”
In his nearly 50 years of incarceration, Tucker has never had a single infraction involving violence. Mr. Tucker also earned his GED, an Associate’s degree, and a Bachelor’s degree from Coppin State during his incarceration. He credits education with helping him grow into the man he is today and has sought to help others tap into the joy of learning. In recognition of his commitment to lifelong learning, the University of Baltimore selected Mr. Tucker to be a mentor and tutor for other students in its prestigious Second Chance College Program. In addition, Mr. Tucker helped start the following initiatives within the prison system relating to reading, writing and analysis: the MHC Writers Club, RCI-H Reading Club, and the RCI-H Roxbury Rooks (a chess club).
Remarkably, for more than seven years, Mr. Tucker has worked as a Certified Inmate Observation Aide monitoring people in prison who are in crisis. Mr. Tucker found his calling in serving others, and has been able to apply his counseling background to help incarcerated individual better cope with living through their years of being locked up.
“Mr. Tucker was sent to prison as a teenager and is coming home a senior citizen,” said Attorney Kumar. “He has put in many more years than anyone could have expected and he has done the hard work to earn his second chance. It has been our privilege to support his efforts to obtain his freedom.”
The victim in this case, Reverend Louis W. Foxwell, Sr., was a trailblazer in Baltimore’s deaf community, leading the Christ United Methodist Church congregation and serving as the Director of Communications for the Maryland School of the Deaf in Frederick. He was survived by his wife and three children. The Foxwell family did not oppose Mr. Tucker’s release.
In recognizing that Rev. Foxwell was an advocate for people with impaired hearing, in 1992 Mr. Tucker helped start a program to teach sign language to people in the Maryland prison system and helped spur the inclusion of sign language classes as part of a college program offered within the Maryland prison system.
Upon his release, Mr. Tucker will rejoin a strong community of supporters, which includes his elderly mother, who has not seen him in person in years. He looks forward to contributing to his community, particularly through mentoring and counseling of Black men in whom he sees his younger self.
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:
1. 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;
2. 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 20 years in prison on a life sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile (age 17 and under).