A Howard County judge postponed the sentencing of a convicted murderer yesterday after an anonymous correspondent wrote him and a defense lawyer and claimed that the man was innocent.
Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. delayed the sentencing of Vernon Lee Clark until Oct. 10 to give the public defender's office time to investigate the letter writer's allegations.
The writer claimed to be a witness with knowledge of the July 3, 1989, murder of a 23-year-old Elkridge woman.
"I am a person willing to step forward and admit that Vernon Lee Clark had no involvement in the murder," said the anonymous correspondent's handwritten letter to Barbara Matthews Kreinar, an assistant public defender representing Clark.
The letter writer expressed concern about appearing in court as a witness "for fear of danger for my life, but I . . . don't want an innocent man to go to prison for something he didn't do."
According to the letter writer, who apparently knows the defendant, the killer of Kathleen Patricia Gouldin in her Elkridge apartment bedroom was "6 feet tall, [and had] light brown skin with a medium thick build, but that description is not Vernon Lee Clark."
Clark faces a potential sentence of life plus 30 years for murder, assault with intent to rape, perverted practice and use of a gun in a felony. He remains detained without bail at the county jail.
Prosecutor Timothy Wolf said he did not oppose delaying sentencing "to give the defense an opportunity to see if something comes out of it." But he acknowledged that a delay based on anonymous allegations was "a bit unusual," and he called the letters "meaningless, because there is no real suggestion of anything."
Ms. Kreinar said the delay was essential for Clark "because it has given us a reasonable opportunity to investigate and determine if there is a basis for a motion for a new trial based on new evidence."
"We are treating this very seriously," Ms. Kreinar said. "The best possible scenario is that the letter writer will get in touch with our office and meet with our investigator. In my three years of felony trial work, I have never heard of anything like this happening before."
Clark was convicted by a county jury April 17 after the state presented a circumstantial case because there were no eyewitnesses to the crime.
Ms. Gouldin was mortally wounded by a shotgun blast fired through a window of her ground-floor apartment and then sexually assaulted.