The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has overturned the manslaughter conviction of a drunken driver because of double jeopardy, ruling that before the man was convicted of manslaughter he had already been convicted of the offense when he paid a $35 traffic citation.
John Charles Glasser was cited by Baltimore County police for going the wrong way on a one-way road. The citation was issued before Glasser was indicted on a charge of manslaughter in the 1989 death of Everett Lee Jones, 30, of North Point in eastern Baltimore County.
The conviction in that case marked the second time Glasser had been convicted of killing someone on a Maryland road while driving drunk.
He was sentenced last year to five years in prison for the conviction that the court overturned on May 29.
But Maryland's intermediate appellate court, citing cases from other states and one that led to a Supreme Court ruling, said that by paying the traffic citation for driving the wrong way on the Beltway, Glasser was convicted of the conduct that resulted in the accident and couldn't be convicted of the same offense a second time.
In a five-page opinion, the court wrote that Glasser "had previously admitted guilt on the traffic offense by paying the assessed fine. Subsequently, the state used the same conduct -- driving the wrong way -- to prove gross negligence, an element of manslaughter by automobile."
"He's a free man," John P. Cox, the assistant county state's attorney who prosecuted the second manslaughter case against Glasser, said yesterday. "There's nothing we can do."
"It's hard to explain something like this," Cox added.
"For a man to have been involved in two fatalities and then to walk away is just beyond my under See RULING, A6, Col. 1 RULING, From A1 standing," said Virginia W. Hoefner, a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Glasser, 37, was convicted of manslaughter by automobile by Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge William R. Buchanan Sr., who sentenced him on May 7, 1990, to five years in prison.
Evidence before the judge showed that Glasser, whose blood alcohol level the night of the accident was .24 percent, was driving his Ford pickup truck northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 695 near Chesaco Avenue in the eastern county.
On June 29, 1989, Glasser's truck smashed head-on into a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass driven by Jones, 30, of the 7900 block of St. Bridget Lane in North Point. Jones died the next morning at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore.
When Glasser was given the maximum penalty last year, Cox expressed frustration that he couldn't be subjected to a stiffer penalty.
In a 1983 case, Glasser was sentenced to just 20 days in jail, to be served on weekends, for the traffic death of Carroll Joseph Finkner, 56.
Finkner was a passenger in Glasser's 1980 Chevrolet Citation when it swerved off the road in Arnold and struck a tree. Glasser, who police said was drunk at the time, was seriously injured and Finkner was killed.
Cox said prosecutors have instructed police officers not to issue "payable" traffic citations in serious traffic accident cases or in cases where a death might result.