WESTMINSTER — A former Mount Airy man who strangled his wife on Memorial Day 1988 is asking Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold to let him out of jail before he completes his 10-year sentence.
Kevin L. Kern, 33, went before Arnold with his Towson attorney, Joseph L. Lyons, Thursdayto ask that his sentence be reduced.
In February 1989, a Carroll jury found Kern guilty of manslaughter in the choking death of his wife, 26-year-old Denise Ann Kern.
Kern testified during his trial that he strangled his drunken wife after picking her up from a bar and taking her to a wooded area, where they made love. He said she then told him he was not the father of heryoungest child.
Since July 1989, Kern has been incarcerated at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Washington County.
At the hearing on the reduction of sentence, Lyons told the judge that his client has had many accomplishments while in prison and that he has beenrehabilitated.
"We're not saying that the sentence imposed by (retired) Judge Donald Gilmore was too harsh," said Lyons, who represented Kern at his trial. "Our argument is that he has done so much therealready. There isn't much left for him to do."
Gilmore wanted Kern to receive alcohol counseling and rehabilitation while in prison. Lyons told the court he has completed the counseling and has certificates for 12 months of sobriety.
"He has taken this opportunity to get his life together," Lyons told the court.
Lyons said Kerns alsohas earned his high school equivalence certificate while in prison and has "risen to a position of trust."
While in prison he works asa housing clerk, taking care of paperwork for more than 300 inmates,Lyons said.
Five prison guards from Roxbury sent letters to Arnold commending Kerns on his progress.
One prison guard, a lieutenant, wrote that in his 17 years of work, he had never before written a letter on behalf of an inmate.
A representative of Kern's former employer, Korman Construction, told Arnold that Kern would have a job waiting for him if he were released from jail.
Kern's mother, father and sister were in court to show they support their son, Lyons said.
Despite Kern's progress in prison, Assistant State's Attorney Jill R. Trivas said he should not be released.
"I can't dispute thatapparently he has done well," said Trivas. "But as far as I'm concerned, that only makes him a good prisoner. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be in jail. He still (killed) his wife."
Trivas said that during Kern's trial, Gilmore said there was a very fine line in this casebetween manslaughter and second-degree murder.
"He imposed the maximum sentence for manslaughter because of the way she died," said Trivas. "I think he should serve all of it."
Trivas said Kern had already received a break when the jury found him guilty of manslaughterrather than murder.
"Nothing will bring her back, but he deservesto serve every day of this sentence," Trivas said. "The fact is, he will be out on parole soon anyway. The decision should be left up to the parole board."
Arnold has no time limit in which to make his decision.
During Kern's trial, the jury accepted his argument that his actions in killing his wife were prompted by anger and that her death was not willful or premeditated.
A manslaughter conviction requires an act of violence committed with mitigating circumstances, such as Kern's fit of rage.
Trivas argued during the trial that Kern's actions were willful, simply because he could have stopped choking her before she died.
"He had a choice to take his hands off her throat," Trivas told the jury.
A state medical examiner testified at the trial that it could have taken Kern anywhere from 30 seconds to four or five minutes to strangle his wife.
His wife's body was found in the underbrush off Old West Falls Road. She had bruises on her face and neck and was covered with skunk cabbage leaves, court records show.
After the strangulation, Kern fled Maryland in his pickup truck with his three children, Rachael, then 7, Kelsey, then 4, andBrandon, then 2. They drove to Toledo, Ohio, where Kern's relatives live, police said.
He returned to Maryland three days later and surrendered to police.