Trucker's murder conviction overturned trial errors cited Case involves '89 slaying of Catonsville man

October 08, 1991|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Anne Arundel Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- The Court of Special Appeals overturned yesterday the conviction of a 31-year-old truck driver for the May 23, 1989, murder of a Catonsville man, citing errors by the trial judge.

Maryland's intermediate appellate court ordered a new trial for Vincent O. Hamilton, formerly of Woodlawn, because Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. erred three times during the trial.

A three-judge panel said that Judge Sybert should have granted a postponement when Mr. Hamilton's lawyers learned only days before the trial was to start of evidence that should have been disclosed earlier.

The court also said that Judge Sybert should have allowed the defense to see notes made by a police officer who was a prosecution witness and should not have allowed DNA tests on blood found on Mr. Hamilton's car to be used as evidence.

Mr. Hamilton was sentenced to life in prison after his conviction for the murder of Kelly J. Nance, 23, in April 1990. Emmanuel Henderson, an acquaintance of Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Nance, testified during the trial that Mr. Hamilton had threatened several times to kill Mr. Nance, whom he thought had implicated him in an FBI investigation of a credit card scam.

But the only physical evidence linking Mr. Hamilton to Mr. Nance, who was shot twice in the back of the head, was two drops of blood found on Mr. Hamilton's car door. DNA tests used as evidence at the trial showed the blood matched Mr. Nance's.

The court, however, said that the test results should not have been allowed as evidence because none of the lab technicians was brought in to testify that the blood was the same and that the tests had been performed properly.

The panel also said that the judge should have granted the defense time to investigate a report that Baltimore County police arrested two men the night of the murder near the spot in the Elkridge area of Howard County where Mr. Nance's body was found. One of the men was carrying a gun capable of shooting the bullets that killed Mr. Nance.

The court also ruled that the defense should have been allowed to examine notes written by police officers who investigated the killing.

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