John Thanos is excused from trial

March 13, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

LEONARDTOWN -- John Frederick Thanos will not have to sit in court during his trial here in the Aug. 31, 1990, murder of a Wicomico County man, a St. Mary's County circuit judge ruled yesterday.

But Thanos, 42, who asked to be excused from the trial and wanted to return to his prison cell at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore, must remain in the St. Mary's County jail during his trial, Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz said.

Thanos had also asked the judge to allow him to be shuttled back and forth between here and Baltimore each day during the trial, but the judge denied that request as well.

Attorneys for Thanos, convicted in January of robbing and murdering two Middle River teen-agers, had requested that the current case involving the kidnapping, robbing and killing of Gregory A. Taylor, 18, a welder from Hebron, be moved here from the Eastern Shore because of pretrial publicity. The lawyers also asked for a jury trial.

The questioning of potential jurors began Tuesday, but yesterday Thanos said that if the judge would not allow him to return to prison in Baltimore, he would waive his right to a jury trial, plead guilty before Judge Kaminetz and proceed to the sentencing phase.

Judge Kaminetz said he will address the issue of whether Thanos can waive his right to a jury trial today.

If allowed to do so, Thanos could plead guilty or face a court trial before Judge Kaminetz immediately.

James McCarthy, one of three public defenders representing Thanos, would not comment yesterday on whether Thanos' effort to waive a jury trial was against his attorneys' advice.

"My policy has been not to comment," he said.

Should the jury trial proceed, questioning and qualifying a pool of jurors could take several more days.

Thus far, about 35 jurors have been questioned and 20 qualified.

Thanos faces the death penalty if convicted of Mr. Taylor's murder. Prosecutors are expected to introduce as evidence a videotaped confession in which they say Thanos describes killing Mr. Taylor, then stealing his car.

In January, Thanos was convicted of the robbery and murder of Billy Winebrenner, 16, a gas station clerk, and his girlfriend, Melody Pistorio, 14, during a Labor Day 1990 holdup at the Big Red gasoline station on Pulaski Highway in Middle River.

Thanos faces the possibility of the death penalty for those murders. That sentencing will take place June 1.

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