Man surfaces in jail after 505 days without trial date But jail critics see signs of progress

August 24, 1991|By Brian Sullam

Officials at the Baltimore City Detention Center have discovered another inmate who has been languishing in the jail without a trial date -- this time for 505 days.

Jail critics believe the discovery is actually a positive sign that state officials are cleaning up the jail's recordkeeping mess.

Thursday, state officials determined that Darryl E. Dodd, 30, had been incarcerated since April 5, 1990, and still had not been assigned a trial date.

"This is just another blatant example of the inefficiency and the lack of substantive internal procedures to ensure that inmates were brought to court in a timely fashion under the city system," said LaMont Flanagan, the acting commissioner of the state Division of Pretrial Detention and Services.

Mr. Flanagan said Mr. Dodd was "flagged" by a procedure that has been in effect since July 1 when the state took over the Baltimore City Jail. The procedure checks daily for inmates without trial dates or who have been incarcerated for more than 120 days.

"If we didn't have this procedure in place, he probably would have remained in the system unnoticed," Mr. Flanagan said.

Mr. Dodd was assigned a trial date of Sept. 4, he said.

If convicted of theft and related charges, Mr. Dodd could be sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $500.

Longtime jail critic Frank Dunbaugh said he is happy that state officials found Mr. Dodd.

"It is a good thing that they are still looking. They are really searching the system," said Mr. Dunbaugh, who is the attorney representing jail inmates in a 15-year federal class action against the city and state over conditions in the jail. One aspect of the suit deals with inadequate recordkeeping and detaining inmates beyond their release dates.

Stuart Comstock-Gay, the director of the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, also seemed satisfied with the state's efforts. "This was an outrageous situation," he said. "It is obvious that there was a very serious recordkeeping problem when the city was running the jail, but it appears that the state is getting a handle on the recordkeeping system."

Mr. Dodd was jailed April 5, 1990, on a warrant for failing to appear in court on misdemeanor charges -- theft of less than $300, being a vagabond and malicious destruction of property, according to Patricia Jessamy, the deputy state's attorney for Baltimore.

He is the latest in a string of jail inmates who have been discovered being held without trial dates since the state took over the jail and renamed it the Baltimore Detention Center.

In the course of inventorying the population, officials found 93 inmates whose jail records showed no trial dates. All but two cases -- one that had been dismissed and one in which the case number was inaccurate -- have since had trial dates assigned or have been resolved.

Among those cases was Martin E. Henn, 57, a homeless alcoholic, who had been jailed 396 days. He had not been given a trial date on charges of arson and malicious destruction of property.

Once Mr. Henn's predicament was discovered, officials moved to have him indicted and then arraigned. On Aug. 14, Baltimore Circuit Judge Ellen M. Heller released him to an alcohol rehabilitation center, which he has since left.

Another inmate lost in the system was Joseph Robert Walter Seymour, 48, who was released Monday after spending about five months in jail awaiting trial for violating probation for traffic violations.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph A. Ciatola dismissed the charges, saying Mr. Seymour's stay in jail was longer than the maximum sentence -- 60 days -- he could have served.

But Mr. Dodd has languished in the system longer than any otheinmate discovered so far. His troubles with the jail began July 25, 1989, when he was arrested on new theft charges and failure to appear in court on a previous theft charge.

In October he was moved from the jail to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup for an evaluation of his mental condition.

On Oct. 23, he was tried in District Court on the new theft charges and given credit for the time he had served. Because a detainer -- an order not to release a defendant because he faces additional charges -- on the failure to appear charge had not been attached to his folder, the judge released Mr. Dodd.

On Dec. 11, 1989, Mr. Dodd failed to appear before Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward J. Angeletti on the charge of failing to appear. Another warrant for his arrest was issued.

Court and jail records reflect that Mr. Dodd was arrested on April 5, 1990, but the court was not notified. As a result, only the jail was aware of his location.

Ms. Jessamy said that assistant state's attorneys tried to locate Mr. Dodd at least three times -- June 1, 1990; Dec. 19, 1990; and May 7, 1991 -- by computer search. Each time the computer said the warrant was outstanding, indicating that Mr. Dodd was still at large.

"I have no idea what happened," Ms. Jessamy said. "We did oubest to find him, but something happened after his arrest that prevented the records reflecting the fact he was at the jail."

She said her office has not decided whether to prosecute Mr. DTC Dodd on the outstanding charges.

In Mr. Henn's case, the state's attorney decided to drop the charges because of the length of time he had been jailed.

"At the moment we don't know how we are going to handle this [Dodd] case, but we can't lose sight of the fact that we are here to protect the public," Ms. Jessamy said.

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