Confession Is Barred At Trial In Killing Of Police Informant

November 05, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

An Annapolis man's confession in the shooting death of a police informant will not be allowed at trial, a judge has ruled.

Court records show that county Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. last week granted a motion to suppress a statement by defendant Howard Eugene "Howdy" Stevens Jr. to Annapolis police detective Kenneth Custer. The records do not include an explanation.

Thieme has issued a gag order in the case and ordered portions ofthe court file sealed.

Documents included in court files show Stevens, in an interview with police last March, said he was one of three men who armed themselves and, with a driver, went looking for 22-year-old Sylvester Wayne "Tink" Johnson.

Stevens told police he shotJohnson with a .38-caliber handgun early Jan. 14 as Johnson sat sleeping in his car in a back alley near an Eastport housing project, court records show.

According to a document entered into Stevens' case file, defense attorney William H. Murphy Jr. was seeking to show that police "induced" Stevens into confessing by telling the suspect they would "try to get the charge reduced" to second-degree murder if he made a statement. The results of a lie detector test verify Stevens' claim that he was induced into making his confession, Murphy wrote in court papers.

Court records show Stevens, Custer and Annapolis detective Robert Disney testified during a nearly four-hour hearing conducted Oct. 28 behind closed doors. Exhibits introduced during the hearing -- and ordered sealed within the file -- included: Disney's notes; a form advising Stevens of his rights; a resume, presumably of the polygraph examiner who tested Stevens; and an undescribed "report."

Stevens, 25, of the first block Gilmore Street, is scheduled tostand trial Nov. 25 on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracyto commit murder. Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to beginNov. 21.

Co-defendants David Marshall "Manzie" Chapman and Christopher Dean Jones, both of Annapolis, have already pleaded guilty in connection with Johnson's slaying.

Chapman, 24, pleaded guilty lastmonth to second-degree murder; he is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 16 to 25 years in prison, with seven years suspended. Prosecutor Frank Ragione said witnesses would have testified that Chapman shot Johnson's 1981 Datsun 280Z at least twice with a shotgun.

Jones, 22, pleaded guilty in July to being an accessory to murder after the fact. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 15.

A fourth co-defendant, 20-year-old Gary Ellis "Peanut" Brown of Annapolis, is scheduled to be tried Thursday. Ragione said yesterday he expects a plea to avert a trial in Brown's case.

Ragione has been reluctant to attach a motive to the slaying, but he suggests Johnson may have been the victim ofa pre-emptive strike. Court records show Stevens told police he and his friends went after Johnson because Johnson had threatened some ofStevens' friends over money owed to him. In a statement to police, Jones said Chapman apparently believed Johnson was going to try to blow up Chapman's Chevrolet Blazer or, with two Virginia men, break intothe home of Chapman's mother.

Annapolis city government sources described Johnson as an informant for city police.

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