Jury still deliberating in shotgun murder case

March 07, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- After failing to reach a verdict in four hours Friday, the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury in the Michael C. Bryson Sr. capital murder case will resume deliberations tomorrow morning.

Mr. Bryson's trial concluded Friday after nearly three weeks of testimony. He was charged with the March 25 shotgun slaying of Melrose hardware store owner Charles W. Therit, who was found lying in a pool of blood by two customers less than a half-hour after his death.

Investigators linked Mr. Bryson, 26, of Manchester to the crime after finding his fingerprint on a spent 20-gauge shotgun shell found near Mr. Therit's body.

If the jury convicts him of first-degree murder, armed robbery and five other counts, Mr. Bryson would be asked to choose whether he wants the jury or Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. to determine his sentence.

For Mr. Bryson to get the death penalty, the jury must find him guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery. Without the armed-robbery conviction, the state cannot seek to have Mr. Bryson executed.

Late Friday, jurors asked Judge Duckett four questions regarding the deposition of Mr. Bryson's deceased father. Garland Bryson, who died in January while awaiting a liver transplant in a Pittsburgh hospital, testified extensively about his son's finances in the deposition.

Jurors also asked for a tape recorder so they could play the defendant's statement to police on the night he was arrested. That statement, in which Mr. Bryson denies killing Mr. Therit, contains heated exchanges between police and the defendant.

Lawyers presented nearly three hours of closing arguments to the jury Friday. Prosecutors called the killing an "execution." The defense said the state didn't prove Mr. Bryson committed murder.

"This wasn't so much a murder as it was an execution," said Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman. "We had an unarmed victim who had to be killed to cover up a crime."

That crime, Mr. Hickman said, was the robbery of $140 from Mr. Therit's cash register. Prosecutors said Mr. Bryson was desperate for cash and a job after he was released from a York County, Pa., prison two days before the killing.

The defendant owed more than $1,700 in restitution for a York County embezzlement conviction and needed to come up with the money by the middle of April to avoid being sent back to prison.

"The evidence is overwhelming about this man's guilt," Mr. Hickman said.

Defense attorneys said a combination of inexperience and sloppy police work by investigators "negligently" framed Mr. Bryson.

"What the state is trying to do is bamboozle you into a guilty verdict," defense attorney Richard O'Connor said in his closing argument. "They're trying to bury reality under their props and their scores of witnesses."

Mr. Hickman and fellow prosecutor Clarence "Buddy" Bell presented more than 60 witnesses and introduced more than 120 pieces of evidence, none of which, Mr. O'Connor said, proved directly that Mr. Bryson killed Mr. Therit.

Mr. Bryson's attorneys presented evidence suggesting that Mr. Therit's wife was involved in a romantic relationship with another man two years ago. That, defense attorneys said, could point to another person who had the motive to kill Mr. Therit.

That theory was discounted by police detectives early in the murder investigation and rebutted by the prosecution.

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