Michael Whittlesley, the man accused in the 1982 slaying of his high school friend, 17-year-old Jamie R. Griffin, whose remains were found in Gunpowder State Park a year ago, has had a claim of double jeopardy dismissed by a Caroline County Circuit Court judge.
Whittlesley, now 27, who is serving a 25-year prison term for the robbery of Griffin, was charged last summer in Griffin's murder, several months after Griffin's remains were discovered buried at the park in Baltimore County.
Thelma Thompson, an assistant public defender in Baltimore County, had filed the double-jeopardy motion, arguing that prosecution for Griffin's murder should be barred. Most of the state's evidence for murder already had been presented against Whittlesley during an 1984 robbery trial, she argued.
But Judge J. Owen Wise, of the Caroline County Circuit Court, where the case was moved because of pretrial publicity, ruled against Whittlesley. Prosecutors are not barred from pursuing the murder charges, despite having substantially the same evidence against Whittlesley, because in 1984 they didn't have evidence of murder, he said.
"Because there was no body," the judge wrote in his six-page opinion, "there was an absence of critical evidence to charge and prove motive, malice, intent and manner of death."
Angela White, an assistant state's attorney prosecuting the Whittlesley case, said Whittlesley has an automatic right to appeal the double-jeopardy ruling to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
That is because the state is seeking the death penalty against Whittlesley. Any appeal would have to be heard before he is tried, White said.
He has 30 days to file such an appeal, but Thompson refused to say whether he would do so.
"I am not going to comment on this case at all," she said.
Griffin was a Dulaney Valley High School senior highly regarded for his musical talents on the piano, when he disappeared April 2, 1982.
Whittlesley was convicted by a jury Feb. 16, 1984, of stealing Griffin's money, the car Griffin was driving and some cassette tapes in the car. Authorities had discovered the missing car in Atlantic City, N.J., May 21, 1982, just a few blocks from a pay telephone that Whittlesley used to call his father April 2, 1982.
Jamie Griffin's father, Norville, spent years combing through the park with a metal detector. But it wasn't until March 24, 1990, that police, using new sensing technology, discovered Griffin's remains in a grave 2 feet deep.