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Bishop Averts Death Penalty, Gets Life in Prison

Walter Bishop, 29, who was convicted last week in the 2010 shooting death of a Towson gas station owner, will not be eligible for parole until he is in his mid-70s.

After a jury sentenced him to life in prison for first-degree murder, Walter Bishop, dressed in a gray and white striped prison uniform, had his handcuffs removed by deputies and asked the judge for mercy.

"I'm not ... the monster the state painted me to be," said Bishop, who was convicted last week of first-degree murder. He said he understands he needs to be punished for his crimes, but "I just don't think I have to die in prison for it."

On Wednesday, after a Harford County jury sentenced Bishop to life with the possibility of parole for first-degree murder in the 2010 death of William "Ray" Porter, Judge Mickey J. Norman imposed that sentence. Norman also added consecutive sentences of life and 20 years for conspiracy and handgun use in a violent crime, respectively.

Bishop, 29, will not be eligible for parole until 2060, barring behavior and other credits.

Prosecutors  against Bishop, who was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the March 1, 2010 contract killing of Porter.

"We're appreciative of the sentence of the judge. I think it was completely appropriate," said Assistant State's Attorney John Cox. "We got a fair trial."

Bishop's attorneys plan to appeal the sentence.

"His life is over in so many ways," said public defender Stepfanie McArdle. "I'm just really relieved that the jury saw what we see in him" in not imposing the death penalty.

On the promise of $9,000—allegedly from Porter's wife Karla—prosecutors say Bishop shot Porter twice as he arrived to the Hess gas station on East Joppa Road, which Porter owned.

Several of Karla Porter's relatives have also either pleaded guilty or  Porter herself faces trial next year in Carroll County Circuit Court. Prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty in her case, as well. Her case, like Bishop's, was moved out of Baltimore County at the defense's request.

The jury  after the final day of sentencing hearings, which included testimony from psychiatrists and Bishop's friends and relatives, and an emotional apology by Bishop himself. The jury was in deliberations through Tuesday evening and returned its sentence Wednesday morning.

The defense had argued in sentencing hearings that Bishop's rough upbringing, cooperation with authorities, behavior in prison and remorse were among the reasons for a lighter sentence. Public defender Stefanie McArdle asserted that Bishop would not have shot William Porter if not for Karla Porter's urging. The jury agreed, but in sentencing, Norman said, "The suggestion that this defendant was in some fashion manipulated is preposterous. He's a bright man."

The case was the first to test Maryland's tightened death penalty statute, enacted in 2009. Under the statute, prosecutors can only seek the death penalty for first-degree murder if there is conclusive evidence, such as DNA evidence, video footage of the crime or a voluntary, videotaped confession.

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