Jury starts deliberating verdict for Turner in soldier's death Juror who opposes death penalty was replaced before deliberations began.

May 08, 1991|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

The jury in the first-degree murder trial of Daniel Eugene Turner of Aberdeen was to begin deliberating today after one of its members was disqualified because of his opposition to the death penalty.

The disqualified juror, Christopher Cotter, was replaced by an alternate. The Baltimore County Circuit Court jury had been expected to begin deliberations yesterday, but the disqualification of the juror, arguments from attorneys concerning the disqualification and lengthy closing arguments caused the delay.

Turner, 32, is accused of the fatal stabbing last year of Spec. 4 Bonnie Sue Joseph, 21, of Aberdeen Proving Ground's 523rd Military Police Company.

Harford County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Turner, a one-time circus laborer who also is charged with robbing the soldier, kidnapping her and attempting to rape her.

During the jury-selection process, Cotter appeared to have reservations about sitting on a jury in death-penalty case, but he was impaneled anyway.

Then he wrote a note to the judge shortly after the trial began last week, in which he said he would have difficulty reaching a finding of guilt or innocence.

"I have decided that I cannot, if asked, vote for a sentence of death no matter what the evidence," the note said. "I am not seeking to avoid my duties as a citizen."

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly argued that Cotter should be removed and Judge Alfred L. Brennan agreed.

Defense attorneys argued Cotter should remain. When he was removed, the defense asked for a mistrial, but it was denied.

Defense attorney Luther C. West called the judge's decision highly unusual and said he considered Cotter's disqualification a significant issue for appeal.

Joseph was killed in Edgewood after she was abducted from a convenience store in Aberdeen. The case is being heard in Baltimore County because of pretrial publicity.

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