An attorney for a Severn man charged in a drug-related, execution-style murder is asking an appeals court to delay the man's trial, set to begin today.
After a Circuit Court judge rejected motions to dismiss the case against 21-year-old Christopher Anthony Lee yesterday, defense attorney William H.
Murphy Jr. filed an immediate appeal and said he would seek a delay in the trial, pending a ruling on that appeal.
Lee is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the August 1988 shooting death of Richard Oneil Grisby. Grisby, 26, of Severn, was found dead on a wooded pathway connecting Lake Village and Meade Village.
Testimony in a previous trial showed his death was related to a dispute over stolen drugs.
In what lawyers for both sides termed a "compromise verdict," a Circuit Court jury convicted a Severn teen-ager of second-degree murder last June in connection with Grisby's death. The verdict against 19-year-old Olu Basil Carter appeared to be a compromise reached by jurors because the undisputed manner of the slaying -- that the victim died from two close-range gunshots to the back of the head -- suggested premeditation, the element that distinguishes first-degree murder from second-degree murder.
Carter, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison, was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Murphy, the attorney for Lee, argued yesterday that because the jury in the June trial had ruled there was no conspiracy to commit murder, trying Lee for murder would violate his constitutional protection against double jeopardy.
Assistant State's Attorney Eugene M. Whissel II said yesterday he was dropping the conspiracy charge against Lee.
In a pleading filed yesterday afternoon with the state's Court of Special Appeals, Murphy also noted Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth denied a motion to dismiss Lee's case based on Murphy's claims that the indictment was vague and thus defective.
Murphy said the indictment did not specify whether Lee was charged as a gunman or an accomplice in the slaying, and he accused the prosecutor of "wiggle-waggling" in his position on who fired the fatal shots.
During the Carter trial, Carter was named as the gunman, Murphy said.
But yesterday, he said, the prosecutor told him he may introduce evidence showing Lee was the gunman.
Lee also was told yesterday to decide whether to retain Murphy as his lawyer in light of Murphy having previously represented a potential prosecution witness in the case. If he retains Murphy, Lee will have to waive any claims to incompetent representation despite the chance that Murphy may be restricted in his cross-examination of the witness.
Murphy could be barred from cross-examining the witness because he presumably gained confidential information from the witness under attorney-client privilege.
Lee was given until 1 p.m. today to seek outside counsel and decide whether to retain Murphy. Pretrial motions and the start of the trial are scheduled to follow.