Killer asks for glimmer of hope Manchester man could get death in 1992 slaying

June 04, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Knowing that his life could end in the state's gas chamber, convicted murderer Michael Clay Bryson Sr. broke his 14-month silence yesterday and asked Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. to give him hope of getting out of prison someday.

"I haven't made a whole lot of brilliant decisions in my life," Bryson told the judge. "I have only one choice now: Either deal with it or let it deal with me. My only point is that hope is the only thing that can keep somebody going. All I'm asking for is a glimmer of hope."

Judge Duckett presided in March over the three-week trial in which Bryson, 26, of Manchester, was convicted of killing Melrose hardware store owner Charles W. Therit last year.

The judge is expected to pronounce sentence today. He can impose death, life without parole or life with the possibility of parole.

Bryson, restrained in shackles and sporting a new goatee, spoke calmly and without apparent emotion for nearly a half-hour yesterday, the first time he has spoken in court since his arrest April 6, 1992. He stopped short of admitting the murder, but said that he would have to live with the jury's decision to convict him.

He apologized to the victim's family -- no family members were in the courtroom -- but expressed a hope of being reunited with his young son and daughter.

"I hope I live a long life and can return to the streets when I'm in my 50s and be there for my children," he said.

Judge Duckett made it clear that he may not give Bryson that chance.

"For the longest time, I've wondered why the death penalty was brought into this case," the judge said, interrupting arguments by defense attorney Ronald Hogg. "But as this case progresses, it gets a lot closer. This is a close one, my friend, this is a close one."

Bryson was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, robbery, battery and theft in the March 25, 1992 shotgun slaying in a robbery that netted $140.

The trial was moved to Anne Arundel County from Carroll County at Bryson's request.

Since Wednesday, Bryson's attorneys have presented five witnesses at the sentencing hearing to persuade Judge Duckett to impose a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.

Their client, the attorneys said, is a deeply troubled man plagued with a dysfunctional family and a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. They have said that Bryson is incapable of making appropriate decisions and that financial trouble and drug addiction clouded his judgment in all of his affairs.

"This man is not an incorrigible criminal," Richard O'Connor, Mr. Hogg's partner, said of Bryson. "I don't know exactly what happened that night. Only one person here does. I don't know, he may have been in the depths of despair at that point. His life is essentially over no matter what happens. Give him some hope."

They asked the judge to impose a sentence of life with parole, which would give Bryson a chance to leave prison in a minimum of 25 years.

Patricia Bryson, the defendant's mother, testified on his behalf yesterday. In an interview after the hearing, she maintained her son's innocence and expressed hope that he will not be executed.

"I don't think even the judge could be that cruel," she said, fighting back tears.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman doesn't consider the death penalty cruel in Bryson's case.

"We're here today because of the sole, sole choice of this man," the prosecutor said, pointing at the defendant. "This man made a choice, a free choice. For us to say, 'Yes, he blew this man away, but let's not take his life,' is unjust. Charlie Therit's life was taken away by his choice, and for only 140 bucks.

"Let this man stand by his choices now. He wasn't a kid, and he wasn't a dummy."

Mr. Hickman reminded Judge Duckett that, at the time of the murder, Bryson was on probation in four separate cases.

"He's now had five bites at the apple," Mr. Hickman said. "How many times do we have to get burned?"

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