WESTMINSTER — Amanda Perry, the 29-year-old former Finksburg woman who shot her husband to death while he slept, has been freed after 19 months in jail.
Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. signed an order Aug. 30 releasing the mother of two from the Carroll County Detention Center.Perry had been sentenced to six years in prison in the 1988 shootingdeath of 34-year-old Benjamin Daniel Perry.
The judge's decision brought thanks from Perry, praise from her Baltimore attorney, fury from the victim's mother and frustration fromthe county State's Attorney's Office, which asked in vain for a hearing on the release.
In a prepared statement, Perry thanked Burns for his mercy and added that she believes her 19-month incarceration "paid her debt to society."
She also said she is glad to be reunited with her children and thanked her attorney, David B. Irwin.
On March 14, 1990, Perry pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. She saidshe shot her husband because he snorted cocaine in front of the couple's children, now 3 and 5 years old. She said that her son mimicked her husband's cocaine abuse and that her husband physically abused her.
In an opinion filed Friday, Burns said he sympathized with the children.
"The real victims are the two children left without a father, and, for the past 18 months, without a mother," Burns wrote.
He said that Perry does not "present a danger to the community and that justice will be best served by suspending her sentence and reuniting her with her children."
Burns also wrote that he believed Perry was influenced by battered spouse syndrome at the time of the murder. To support that finding, Burns included two letters from Dr. Michael Spodak, a psychiatrist who treated Perry and said she suffered from the syndrome, a psychological condition in which a woman feels helpless to stop the abuse but is afraid to leave because she fears her mate will kill her.
Perry did not have the opportunity to introducethe syndrome as a defense at her hearing because legally it was not allowed as evidence until April, Burns wrote.
Burns also speculated on Perry's chances for release if she had been in the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in February 1991, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer met with abused women and released eight who killed theirmates.
Instead of serving her time at the state prison, Perry spent the majority of her sentence at the Carroll County Detention Center in the work-release program. Under the program, she was able to leave the jail every day to go to her job at Dunkin' Donuts in Cockeysville.
She was moved from the state prison to the detention center June 12, 1990 -- three months after her sentencing -- when Burns granted her first request to have her sentence modified.
In December, Perry and Irwin filed another request asking for her release.
WhileBurns did not release her from jail, he did grant her a 13-day furlough so she could spend Christmas with her children.
The State's Attorney's Office filed motions opposing her release.
Shirley Perry,Benjamin Perry's mother, called Burns' handling of the case a farce.
"Why is this woman so special? Other women with children serve time in prison," she said. "She did a horrendous crime. This has not been justice."
But Irwin disagreed, saying jail was "hell for her and her family." He called Burns' decision "terrifically courageous."
Burns disputed the claim. "It wasn't courageous. It was the right thing to do."