Student's killer now in top-security prison Reduced term sought before transfer

October 14, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Brian Jordan, one of two young men convicted of shooting a South Carroll High School student to death five years ago, has been living in Maryland's toughest prison since February, transferred there after inciting a prison work stoppage.

Jordan's transfer to the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center -- or "Supermax" -- came less than two months after he asked Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. to reduce his sentence.

According to Division of Corrections records and recent letters from Jordan's attorney and State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, Maryland Penitentiary officials had Jordan moved to the super-high-security prison Feb. 6.

Inmates in the penitentiary participated in a prisonwide strike Jan. 31, records show. Officials said they had reason to believe Jordan was "inciting other inmates to participate in" the work stoppage.

The entire prison population was locked down for more than a day, and Jordan was placed in solitary confinement before being transferred.

Both Jordan, of Columbia, and Brian Tracy, of Taylorsville, were convicted in 1988 of the Nov. 22, 1987, murder of Richard Purman. Each was sentenced to two life terms plus several additional 20-year terms for the killing. They were 16 at the time of the murder.

At a December sentence-modification hearing, Jordan, his mother, sister, attorney and others painted a portrait of a 21-year-old who was turning his life around inside prison walls.

"Brian is intelligent, hard-working and friendly," wrote James E. Coleman, a Baltimore City Community College math professor who taught Jordan during 1990. "He is also able to command respect."

Judge Burns was told of Jordan's classwork, his work with the prison chapter of the Maryland Jaycees and his organization of a youth committee to "address the needs of the younger #i prisoners."

"He has not allowed the racial and religious prejudices found in this population to hinder him in his efforts," wrote Abdul Rashid Salih, president of the Inmate Advisory Council.

Judge Burns has not issued his decision on the reduced-sentence request, but he said yesterday that he has so far refused to read any of the letters addressed to him by Jordan, Mr. Hickman and defense attorney J. Barry Hughes concerning Jordan's transfer to Supermax.

"That happened after the hearing, so I will not consider [the letters] in my decision," the judge said in a brief interview in his chambers.

Mr. Hughes could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In the letters, copies of which were obtained from the state's attorney, Jordan explains his version of what happened in January.

"In late January of 1992, there was a work stoppage at thpenitentiary," he wrote in an Oct. 8 letter. "It was a planned strike aimed at protesting the deplorable conditions within the penitentiary. . . . I feel that I was placed here in this severely disciplined prison unjustly."

In 1987, Jordan, Tracy and Dawn Torres, also 16 at the time of the murder, escaped from the Sykesville Shelter Home after persuading Richard Purman to give them a ride.

At a secluded area in Taylorsville, Tracy shot Richard in the chest, intending to steal his 1976 Chevy Malibu. When the car wouldn't start, the three returned to the shelter, where they were later arrested. Torres cooperated with the state's attorney's office, and her case was handled in juvenile court.

Richard's shooting has left his family devastated.

"I feel like I'm not living in the here and now, but in some past-future fantasy where . . . Richard is," his father, James Purman, wrote to Judge Burns. "I go out with friends, pay my bills, do chores but always my mind and heart are far, far away."

Richard's mother, Elaine E. Andrew, also wrote to the judge to urge him not to reduce Jordan's sentence.

"The fiends of hell can inflict no more painful life than a mother watching hopelessly as her children suffer," she said in the letter.

So far, the sentence-reduction request made by Tracy went the way the family -- and Mr. Hickman -- had wanted. Tracy's sentence was upheld in July by Judge Burns and Circuit Judges Raymond E. Beck Sr. and Francis M. Arnold.

Should Jordan's sentence remain unchanged, he would not be eligible for parole until 2013.

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