Mistrial declared in Copeland case Insanity question deadlocks jury

September 29, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A headline in Tuesday's Anne Arundel editions should have said that Maxine Copeland of Pasadena was shot in the head. A second headline that day should have said that the West County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring an auction at the Sarah's House shelter.

The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.

A county Circuit Court jury could not decide yesterday whether a 57-year-old Pasadena man was insane when he lured his wife to Marley Station Mall with the promise of a special birthday present and then shot her in the head.

Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. declared a mistrial in the case against Arthur D. Copeland, a systems analyst who hated guns and led a "model life," before he shot his wife on her 59th birthday last January.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Copeland, convicted by the jury in the shooting Friday, will be retried in December to determine whether he had the mental capacity to be held responsible when he shot Maxine Copeland on Jan. 17.

According to testimony, Copeland met his wife that night when they both pulled up to their waterfront home on Rock Hill Road shortly before 6 p.m. He told her to follow him to the mall. When they got to the Hecht's parking lot, he climbed into her car, told her to shut her eyes and shot her.

When she struggled out of the car, he gave chase and pistol-whipped her.

Copeland's friends and co-workers testified that he had an above-average IQ of 117, was a hard worker who held the same job with a Fort Meade defense firm for 25 years, hated guns and was generous "to a fault" with his four children.

Jurors took only a few hours to decide Friday that Copeland was guilty of first-degree attempted murder, battery and a handgun violation in the shooting.

But the jury of seven men and five women deliberated more than 10 hours before announcing yesterday afternoon that they were deadlocked over whether Copeland was criminally responsible.

Jury forewoman Margaret P. Quarto, a secretary from Millersville, said two jurors remained firm in their belief that Copeland was not criminally responsible, and the other 10 were just as convinced that he was responsible.

"Each charge was discussed in very great detail, we made sure that each person was able to verbally make their views known," she said.

In a three-day trial, defense attorney Timothy Murnane never contested evidence that his client fired the two shots that left Mrs. Copeland blinded in one eye.

But he had a battery of therapists testify that Copeland was incapable of realizing the gravity of his actions when he pulled the trigger -- a standard for determining criminal responsibility.

Testimony from medical experts showed that Copeland had an abnormality in his frontal lobe that may have left him unable to handle stress. Therapists also testified that he was still grieving the death of his third wife in June 1989 at the time of the shooting, and that he had just experienced a sudden shock in being laid off.

Mr. Murnane said afterward he was gratified that some jurors found sufficient evidence to consider his client not responsible for his actions.

"From a defense perspective, if your client is not convicted, it's a win," he said.

Fred Paone, assistant state's attorney, said the case has been set for retrial Dec. 15.

"It's frustrating. You can run, but you can't hide. We're trying this guy again," he said.

Copeland faces a life sentence if found criminally responsible.

Ms. Quarto said the initial vote in the jury room was 8-4 in favor of criminal responsibility.

She said eventually, two jurors were swayed by the same evidence that convinced the majority -- that Copeland was capable of reasoning clearly, that he bought the gun four or five days before the shooting and used a fake name when he bought it, that he got rid of the weapon afterward and the he initially lied to police.

The judge's instructions to the jury were read out loud in the jury room and jurors took about a half-dozen voice votes on the issue, she said.

"No one wanted a hung jury, everyone was very adamant about that. But at the same time no one could go against their convictions," said Theresa Conway, a juror from Annapolis.

Most jurors didn't buy the lay off as a contributing factor in the shooting, since Copeland had been warned months before, jurors said.

The brain abnormality was also discounted by most jurors, since doctors testified for the prosecution that such abnormalities are fairly common and do not usually lead to violence.

Both of the holdouts were male, the jurors said. One of them was convinced by both medical tests confirming the brain abnormality and testimony of Dr. Barbara Nellis, a Crownsville State Hospital psychologist called by the defense.

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