Slaying trial begins Bryson accused in Therit killing

January 08, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Jury selection in Michael C. Bryson Sr.'s capital murder case began yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

While a group of 120 potential jurors was reduced to 88, Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. and attorneys in the case aren't expected to have a panel of 12 until Tuesday.

Mr. Bryson, 26, is charged with first-degree murder and other offenses in the shotgun killing last March 25 of Melrose hardware store owner Charles W. Therit. The killing was Carroll's only homicide last year.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman is seeking the death penalty, only the third time he has done so since the death penalty was reinstated in Maryland in 1978.

The trial, expected to last a month, was moved from Carroll County after Mr. Bryson's attorneys requested a change of venue.

At times, jury selection yesterday appeared to be an exercise in excuse-making. Some -- including an unemployed single father, several college students and special education teachers -- won the sympathy of Judge Duckett.

Others -- among them a geometry teacher, a waiter and a woman who said she wouldn't be paid for more than 10 days -- are still potential candidates.

One young man, who works as a pest-control technician, pleaded with the judge to be excused.

"I talked to my boss at lunch, and he told me I wouldn't have a job waiting for me when I got back," the potential juror said.

"Well, your boss just may not have a business when you get back if that's the case," said Judge Duckett as he denied the man's request.

Another man, who said something about the death of his boss' 2-year-old daughter and the inconvenience of jury duty, also was not excused.

"Well, you know, life goes on," the judge said.

Several potential jurors were sent home because they said they give more weight and credibility to testimony from police officers than to regular citizens.

But at least two women who said they are morally opposed to capital punishment remained in the jury pool.

Today Mr. Hickman and defense attorneys Richard O'Connor and Ronald Hoog will begin to pose several dozen questions to each of the remaining 88 potential jurors. That process is expected to take until at least Tuesday.

In death penalty cases, the defendant can choose whether the judge or jury decides the sentence. Though the state is seeking the death penalty, the defendant is not automatically sentenced to death if convicted.

After a jury is selected, Judge Duckett is expected to rule on two defense motions that call the death penalty unconstitutional.

Mr. Bryson was arrested last April 6 after investigators recovered a 20-gauge Stoeger shotgun that police say was used in the killing and found fingerprints matching Mr. Bryson's at the scene.

He was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, two counts of murder in the commission of a felony, robbery, misdemeanor theft and battery.

He is being held at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center for the duration of the trial.

The owner of Deep Run Hardware in Melrose, Mr. Therit, 51, was shot in the face during a robbery, police said.

His death stunned the residents of Melrose, a small country town near Manchester.

The Therit family is well known in the area.

The victim's parents had operated a general store in the building for years, and his seven brothers and sisters were fixtures in the community.

Former Deep Run Hardware employees said Mr. Therit knew most of his customers by name, and that he probably knew Mr. Bryson.

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