Judge Permits Prosecutors To Seek Death Penalty In Trial

October 27, 1991|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

A Columbia man will face the death penalty if convicted in the slaying of a 44-year-old Columbia woman during a burglary at her town house, a county judge ruled this week.

Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can seek the options of thedeath penalty or life without parole in the case against Kevin M. Briscoe, 25, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Pamela Barker.

Attorneys for Briscoe argued that he should be exempt from both penalties because prosecutors requested the options less than 30 days prior to the original trial date, which was scheduled more than a year ago.

Last year, former Administrative Judge J. Thomas Nissel threw out the death penalty and life without parole options in two capital murder cases because a prosecutor requested them less than 30 daysbefore the initial trial date.

But, Kane noted, the law states that the notice must be given 30 days prior to the trial, not a trial date that could change.

Kane, in disagreeing with Nissel's interpretation, said the law allows a prosecutor to seek the death penalty upto 30 days prior to the actual trial, even if the trial is postponedseveral times. It is notunusual for postponements to delay a trial for months, or even a year, after the original trial date.

Kane said he also believes notice must be given to the defendant in person, asticking point in two other first-degree murder cases. In the case against Tyrone Colbert, 29, who pleaded guilty last week to the first-degree murder of an armored-car guard, Kane ruled Colbert could not be given the death penalty or life without parole because prosecutors had informed him of their plans via his attorneys.

Until the Colbert ruling, giving notice through the attorneys had never been challenged, said Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad, chief of the Circuit Court division.

More recently, prosecutors were denied the option of seeking the death penalty or life without parole for Vernon Lee Clark, 35, of Elkridge for the same reason. Clark was sentenced to life plus 28 years earlier this month for the first-degree murder of a 23-year-old Elkridge woman.

Briscoe's trial is now set to begin Jan. 6.

In another motion, also denied by Kane, Briscoe's attorneys attempted to have the case dropped, stating that their client hadbeen denied his right to a speedy trial.

Briscoe's co-defendant in the murder case, Brian Jordan, 28, of Jessup, is set to go to trialFeb. 24.

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