Defendant's Hiv Infection Cited In Plea

Anderson's Lawyers Ask Courtto Bar Death Penalty

October 14, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

Lawyers for Steven Gregory Anderson are asking a judge to bar the state from seeking the death penalty because the accused murderer likely would die of AIDS before he could be executed.

"It's not only unfair, it's also absurd and it's also a waste of money to want to put a guy to death who is already under a death sentence," Assistant Public Defender Robert H. Waldman said. He is one of two lawyers who willrepresent Anderson at a pretrial motions hearing scheduled for tomorrow.

Anderson, whose 31st birthday is today, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 4 for the September 1990 abduction, rape and murder of a Crofton woman. Police found the body of Gwyn Dixon Criswell, a 41-year-old mother of two, hidden a short distance behind the Crofton Library. She had been strangled to death.

Anderson's lawyers filed a motionlast Wednesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court asking Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. to bar the state from pursuing the gas chamber for Anderson because of what they called the "impossibility of execution of a judgment of death."

In the pleading, the lawyers noted that if Anderson were convicted and sentenced to death, the ensuing appellate process would be "complicated, costly and lengthy" and likely to last more than a decade or, at the least, eight years.

"The defendant will not live that long. He is HIV-positive," according to the pleading.

Waldman said that blood tests on Anderson, along with the medically accepted rates of progression of the infection and the resulting disease, show he likely will die within eight years.

Asked how and when Anderson contracted the AIDS virus, Waldman said, "Nobody knows. One can speculate, but not even Steve knows."

In a court document filed Friday afternoon, Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris wrote, "The defendant's life expectancy is impossible to predict and is irrelevant, as is the life expectancy of any given defendant facing the death penalty.

"The defendant has HIV, not AIDS, and it is not known when he will have AIDS," Ferris wrote. She added thatstate health department studies show the average time from "point ofinfection" to death from AIDS, without treatment, is 12 years. She then noted that Anderson would receive treatment in prison.

In justifying their decision to seek the death penalty for Anderson, prosecutors have pointed to the severity of the crime and the innocence of the victim.

Police have said Criswell left home for the grocery store on a Sunday morning. She stopped at an automated teller machine and never arrived at the store.

Anderson was arrested that evening and charged with an unrelated purse-snatching and the theft of Criswell's car. After police found Criswell's body the following day, he wascharged with first-degree murder.

He had been released from prison three months earlier after serving five years at the Eastern Correctional Institute in Somerset County for a series of breaking and entering convictions in Edgewater.

"This is the type of offense that is every woman's nightmare -- to be abducted, then taken out into the woods, raped and murdered," Deputy State's Attorney Gerald Anders said when prosecutors filed their intention to seek the death sentence last January. "We couldn't find any mitigating circumstances."

At tomorrow's hearing, defense lawyers also will ask the judge to throw out a statement Anderson made to police after his arrest. In addition,they will demand the opportunity to review DNA testing procedures that produced results that prosecutors say link Anderson to the crime scene.

Anderson is serving a five-year prison term at the Patuxent Institution for violating the terms of a prior probation by smoking marijuana. When Anderson received that sentence last December, Waldmancomplained that Anderson was being punished for seeking assistance for a drug problem from his probation agent.

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