Judge Is Asked To Throw Out Evidence In Downs Case

Lawyers Say Interrogation And Searches Were Conducted Improperly

April 21, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Defense lawyers for a man accused of shooting his wife in her sleep await Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck's ruling on whether evidence theysay was obtained improperly will be admissible in court.

Edwin F.Downs Jr., 31, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife, Anne Rita Downs, 30, around midnight Dec. 19 at their Mount Airy home. His trial is scheduled to begin May 13.

Downs' lawyers, Michael D. Mason and Jane Macht of Rockville, argued during three days of pretrial hearings last week that police violated Downs' constitutional protection from self-incrimination and unreasonable search and seizure.

Beck was asked to suppress statements Downs made to Montgomery County police the morning of the shooting,after he had reported being shot at by a man in a black Camaro whiledriving along Route 27, on his route delivering papers for The Washington Post.

Mason and Macht argued that police suspected Downs of the killing hours before they told him and before they advised him ofhis right to counsel and to remain silent, thereby obtaining severalstatements from him when he believed he was being questioned as a victim.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman countered that Downs had chosen to call police in the first place.

"This man wanted, more than anyone, to be with police," Hickman said. "And the reasonwas, the police were his alibi."

Hickman said Downs never changedhis story in the several times he recounted it to officers, on tape and in his own writing.

He said Downs was free to leave the Montgomery County police station at any time, but was told state police investigating his wife's death needed a statement from him, and would drive him back to Carroll County.

Downs' van was being examined for evidence about the shooting he had reported.

Macht argued that police led Downs to believe he was not allowed to leave the station. Shesaid officers' repeated questioning of Downs, close watch over him and the swabbing of his hands for a gunpowder test all amounted to interrogation in police custody.

The defense also asked Beck not to allow as evidence items seized during searches of Downs' home and car.Though police had search warrants, Mason said the warrants were worded too broadly.

Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerny said items seized were related directly to the slaying and shooting Downs reported.

Defense lawyers also have filed motions to suppress testimony by a California man who identified Downs in a photo lineup as having bought a gun from him. Police had traced the gun to the California man's father. Those hearings will be held shortly before the trial.

Since his arrest Dec. 19, Downs has been held without bail at the Carroll County Detention Center.

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