Carroll merchant's killer given life, plus 20 years zTC Parole possible in 30 years

June 05, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. yesterday sentenced convicted murderer Michael Clay Bryson Sr. to life plus 20 years in prison, sparing the Carroll County man from Maryland's gas chamber.

"I find your crime to be horrible, one of the worst crimes, quite frankly, I've ever experienced," Judge Duckett, who presided over Bryson's three-week trial in March, told the defendant. "Most of the time in a murder, you can come away with a reason [for it]. In this case, I haven't the foggiest idea" what the reason would be.

"I'm not going to sentence you to life in prison without parole," the judge said. "Let me give you some advice. While you're in the Pen, go back to school and get an education. There'll come a time when you'll be released, and, based on your demeanor, I believe that you can make a contribution."

A jury convicted Bryson, 26, of Manchester, of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, theft and battery in the March 25, 1992, shotgun slaying of Melrose hardware store owner Charles W. Therit. Judge Duckett sentenced Bryson yesterday only on the first-degree murder and armed robbery counts.

Faye Therit, the victim's widow, was "not disappointed" with the sentence.

"Anything that happens to him [Bryson] is not going to bring my husband back," she said from her Baltimore County home. "It won't change my life at all."

Defense attorney Richard O'Connor said, "This is the second-best sentence we could have gotten under the circumstances. I'm very pleased."

Judge Duckett estimated that Bryson would serve a minimum of years before he is eligible for parole. Bryson must serve at least 25 years of the life sentence for murder, plus perhaps another five years of the 20-year armed robbery sentence, the judge said.

Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman -- who has sought the death penalty on only two previous occasions -- was stunned by the sentence.

"Thank God we sought the death penalty, or else this guy would have been on the streets in 11 years and two months," the prosecutor said.

Mr. Hickman said that by seeking the death penalty, he #i guaranteed that Bryson would serve a minimum of 25 years without parole. "This guy is a danger to society," the prosecutor said.

For two days this week, Mr. Hickman tried to persuade Judge Duckett to impose the death penalty.

Defense attorneys portrayed Bryson as a man haunted by alcoholism, drug abuse and a dysfunctional family.

Judge Duckett said yesterday that the defense's words played a major role in his sentencing decision.

"So, Mr. Bryson, I am taking a chance -- and don't we all? -- by making a finding that it is unlikely you will engage in further criminal activity," the judge said.

"What you did is that you took the life of a good man, a very good man," the judge told Bryson.

"You knew at the time you committed this crime, he recognized you. And if he did know you, he could identify you. So you took care of that problem with a shotgun, a shotgun that you had taken off the wall in his store. I don't think your mind was there then. I don't think you knew where your mind was."

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