Defendant Offers Judge Guilty Plea, Prosecutor Objects

Accused Killer Anderson Seeks Deal To Avoid Execution

December 20, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

Accused murderer Steven Gregory Anderson yesterday asked a judge to ignore a prosecutor's objections and accept his guilty plea -- on thecondition he be spared the death penalty.

Since October, Andersonhas been willing to plead guilty to first-degree murder and related counts in the September 1990 rape and strangulation of a Crofton woman, in exchange for a sentence of life in prison with no chance for parole.

Contending that pursuing the death penalty against Anderson is a waste of money because he will likely die of AIDS before he can be executed, defense lawyers have termed county prosecutors "irresponsible" for rejecting the proposed deal.

The defense lawyers subsequently presented to prosecutors evidence they say shows a life sentence isappropriate in Anderson's case. The evidence includes medical opinions showing Anderson, who has been treated in mental hospitals, suffers from brain damage and a personality disorder and is a latent schizophrenic, defense attorney Gary W. Christopher said.

But county State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee refused to back off his pursuit ofthe gas chamber for Anderson. Christopher said, "I still think it's a hopelessly irresponsible approach to take under the circumstances. We don't doubt (Weathersbee's) good faith, but he's flat wrong in this case."

Weathersbee said he considered the defense lawyers' arguments, but decided to continue pressing for the death penalty because of Anderson's criminal record, aggravating circumstances surrounding the crime and support for the idea within the victim's family.

"I don't think it's irresponsible, not at all," Weathersbee said. "To say we did something irrational and arbitrary is just wrong."

Anderson's lawyers yesterday filed a "tender of plea of guilty upon conditions" with county Circuit Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr.

The defense lawyers say the law allows a judge to accept a plea bargain without theprosecution's agreement, but both Weathersbee and Cynthia M. Ferris,the assistant state's attorney prosecuting the case, disagreed.

Under the pleading filed yesterday, a sentencing hearing would be conducted as required by the death penalty law and if Anderson were to besentenced to death, he would be allowed to withdraw his plea and thecase could go to trial.

Ferris told the judge: "We certainly don't object to him pleading guilty. We object to the condition. We object to him being able to back off and start again if the court doesn't do what he wants it to do."

Goudy, who had pondered during previous hearings whether he could accept a plea bargain over the prosecution's objection, said he would rule after the holidays.

Testimony continued yesterday on a defense motion to bar from the trial genetic evidence linking Anderson to the crimes. Tests have showed a match between Stevens' DNA and DNA found in semen collected from the woman's underwear.

Anderson, 31, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 4 in the rape and murder of Gwyn Dixon Criswell, a 41-year-old mother of two from Crofton who disappeared during a Sunday morning shopping trip.

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