Husband's trial to start in wife's fatal ladder fall

January 11, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Marriottsville man stands trial this week on charges that he kicked a ladder his wife was standing on outside the couple's home, causing her to fall to her death last May.

But before the trial for 51-year-old John Carroll Calhoun starts, a Howard circuit judge must determine what evidence the prosecution can use against him.

At a hearing today, Judge Dennis Sweeney is expected to rule whether a confession police say Mr. Calhoun gave can be admitted as evidence. Mr. Calhoun's attorneys have argued against it, criticizing police for a "planned, methodical" interrogation.

Jury selection for the trial is expected to start after Judge Sweeney issues his ruling.

Mr. Calhoun is charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, assault with intent to murder, reckless endangerment, assault and battery.

Mr. Calhoun, an employee at the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, is charged in the May 13 death of his 45-year-old wife, Gladys Calhoun. She also worked at the agency.

The prosecution contends that Mr. Calhoun kicked the aluminum ladder following an argument. A police report shows that Mrs. Calhoun suspected her husband was having an affair with an NSA co-worker.

Court records show that the prosecution is expected to call two police investigators, who interviewed Mr. Calhoun numerous times between the death of his wife and his arrest on June 19.

Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell is expected to seek testimony from the relatives who found Mrs. Calhoun's body after her husband called them to their Thompson Drive home, records say.

Ms. O'Donnell also issued subpoenas for Mr. Calhoun's three daughters and a Baltimore woman who allegedly was having the affair with the defendant.

The prosecutor is expected to present NSA documents showing Mrs. Calhoun's employee benefits, insurance policy and its beneficiaries, records say. She also subpoenaed NSA records on any investigation the agency conducted after Mrs. Calhoun's death.

Defense attorneys Daniel Scherr and Jonathan Scott Smith of Columbia are expected to call a former medical examiner for Maryland and a mechanical engineer who specializes in ladder safety.

Mr. Calhoun denied any involvement in the death of his wife during three police interviews before a June 6 meeting with investigators, according to testimony from a pretrial hearing. At the June 6 meeting, the defendant confessed to the investigators that he kicked the ladder his wife was on, causing her to fall and strike her head on scaffolding stacked along the house.

Defense attorneys argue the confession was obtained deceptively. But the prosecution contends Mr. Calhoun made the statements freely.

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