Convicted killer must choose Turner to decide between judge and jury for sentencing in fatal stabbing.

May 09, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

Convicted murderer Daniel Eugene Turner, who fatally stabbed an Army clerk, has until Tuesday to decide whether he will let the judge or the jury that convicted him determine his fate -- life in prison or death in the state's gas chamber.

Yesterday, a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury convicted Turner, 32, of kidnapping, attempted rape and murder in the death of Spec. 4 Bonnie Sue Joseph, 21.

After the verdict, Turner's defense attorneys, Robert Winkler and Luther West, asked Judge Alfred Brennan to give their client time to choose who will sentence him.

Turner, a one-time circus laborer who was linked to the murder by DNA evidence, faces a possible death sentence for the murder of Joseph, who was stabbed more than 25 times.

"I just think it's an overwhelming moment for him, your honor," said Winkler, "and he needs some time for his head to clear, so he can make an informed decision."

PD Brennan, who presided over Turner's 13-day trial, agreed, giving

Turner until Tuesday to decide who will sentence him. Turner's death-penalty hearing is scheduled June 24.

After deliberating for about five hours, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Turner on charges of felony murder, kidnapping, theft, carrying a weapon with the intent to injure and attempted rape.

The jury acquitted him of robbery and robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon.

"I think it was the proper verdict," said Joseph I. Cassilly, the Harford County state's attorney who prosecuted the case along with his assistant, M. Teresa Garland. The case was moved to Baltimore County because of pretrial publicity.

Cassilly said he was "confused" by the acquittals on the robbery counts, but said that won't affect the death-penalty phase of the case.

Under Maryland law, to sentence someone to death, a judge or jury must find that the murder took place under at least one aggravating circumstance. In this case, kidnapping and attempted rape would be considered aggravating circumstances tothe crime.

West and Winkler said that at the sentencing hearing, they will bring up much of Turner's family history as a mitigating circumstance.

They also said they would suggest that their client suffers from low mental capacity.

Under death-penalty procedures, someone who is mentally retarded cannot be executed. The standard measure is anyone with an IQ of 70 or below.

Winkler said Turner has been tested, but that he has not gotten the results.

Brennan noted in court that it will be the burden of the prosecution to prove that Turner is not mentally retarded.

The victim's body was found March 12, 1990, in Edgewood in a field near the 1200 block of Van Bibber Road. Joseph, who worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground as a clerk for the 523rd Military Police Company, had left work about 2 a.m. that day to buy food for herself and co-workers.

Prosecutors contended that Turner abducted the woman from a 7-Eleven store on U.S. 40 in Aberdeen. He took money from her, attempted to rape her, then stabbed her more than 25 times in the head, chest, abdomen and back.

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