Man serving five life sentences for rape to stand trial in two more cases Defendant loses his bid for delay to let him get suit, tie, dress shoes

December 01, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A man serving five life sentences for rapes in Anne Arundel County stands trial this week in the first of two rape cases he faces in Howard Circuit Court.

Testimony is expected to open tomorrow in the case of Michael Devon Armstead, a 33-year-old Brooklyn Park resident who is charged with first-degree rape and 12 other counts in a January 1991 attack of an Ellicott City woman.

Armstead is accused of breaking into an Ellicott City house and raping its owner on Jan. 29, 1991.

Jury selection for the trial is continuing today despite efforts by Louis Willemin, a public defender representing Armstead, to get proceedings delayed because his client did not have a suit, tie and dress shoes to wear.

Armstead was wearing a blue West Virginia University sweat shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes during the jury selection yesterday.

Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. denied the request, noting that Armstead was wearing his own clothing rather than a uniform issued by prison officials. The judge said he would make sure Armstead had a suit for the trial.

Mr. Willemin argued that Armstead needed the clothing to make a good "first impression" for the jurors selected to hear testimony during the trial.

"He was thwarted in those efforts by the warden of the Maryland Penitentiary," Mr. Willemin said. "That's unfair and inappropriate."

The attorney said his client asked prison officials to permit his relatives to bring the clothing but that the officials failed to follow through on the request.

Armstead will have a separate trial in the alleged rape of a Marriottsville woman in her home in May 1989. He also is charged with burglarizing another Marriottsville residence. Those cases have not been set for trial.

Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell, the prosecutor handling the Howard cases, plans to introduce DNA evidence to link Armstead's blood samples to semen samples taken from the rape victims.

Mr. Willemin attempted to block the evidence, but Judge Sybert denied the request following a hearing in September.

Armstead, a former railroad worker, is serving five consecutive life sentences at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore following his conviction on charges of raping two Anne Arundel women.

If convicted in the Howard cases, Armstead faces a maximum sentence of at least two more life sentences.

A convict given a life term must serve at least 15 years of the sentence, according to state law.

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