In a self-proclaimed fight for his innocence, Abras S. Q. "Sandy" Morrison asked a three-judge panel in Carroll County to remove the term "without parole" from his life sentence for first-degree murder.
"I'm not asking for you to open the door and let me out of prison," he told the panel yesterday. "It's not time for that. I'm just asking for a chance to go on with my schooling to better myself and the other inmates."
The panel consisted of Carroll County District Judge Joann Ellinghaus-Jones and Circuit Judges Raymond E. Beck Sr. and Luke K. Burns Jr.
The judges are expected to issue a written decision on Morrison's sentence-reduction request within 30 days, said Assistant State's Attorney Edward Ulsch.
Morrison, 21, was convicted in August 1992 in the 1991 slaying of Margaret Cullen, 74, in a Hampstead cornfield after he and Troy D. Shellington kidnapped her from her North Baltimore home.
Mrs. Cullen's beaten, stabbed and decaying body was found in a field off Route 30 on Aug. 25, 1991 by Baltimore homicide detectives. Morrison had forged a check for $2,000 from her account while he worked for her as a nurse's aide.
Shellington and Morrison, who said Mrs. Cullen "ran into" the knife that killed her, kidnapped the woman to keep her from pressing charges about the check.
Morrison's sentence includes a concurrent life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder, 20 years for kidnapping and five years for robbery. It prevents him from participating in self-improvement programs at the Maryland Penitentiary, Public Defender Barbara Kreinar told the court.
He also was convicted of felony murder in a kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
"I keep going back to the idle hands cliche," Ms. Kreinar said.
"That's what we would have here. He has nothing to do but sit," she said.
"Maybe that is what the state is seeking, but we are seeking parity with the life imprisonment sentence his co-defendant received."
Morrison maintained his innocence during a lengthy plea to the judges. They seemed unimpressed by his speech.
He vowed to prove his innocence through the legal system.