Jones found guilty in nun's death Jury's next decision is on death penalty

November 16, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A jury found Melvin Jones guilty last night of breaking into a North Baltimore convent and murdering and sexually assaulting Sister MaryAnn Glinka -- a crime that outraged the city.

The Baltimore Circuit Court jury that deliberated 2 1/2 hours before convicting Jones will now decide whether he should be sentenced to die for strangling the Franciscan nun.

Testimony in the sentencing phase of the trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon. Presiding Judge John C. Themelis said there is an "outside chance" the jury could begin to consider Jones' fate later that day but that those deliberations were more likely to begin Thursday.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore earlier had issued a statement opposing the death penalty in the case -- or in any other case of murder. The archdiocese said in October that violence in society "has led to a dramatic disrespect for human life" and that capital punishment "further advances an anti-life attitude."

Jones, 34, showed no reaction when the jury foreman announced that he was guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree attempted rape, burglary, robbery and storehouse breaking and entering. As the foreman announced the jury's findings, Jones' sister shook her head and wept. She then buried her face in her mother's shoulder.

Some Franciscan sisters brushed back tears as they thanked prosecutor Timothy J. Doory.

Ernest J. Glinka, the slain nun's brother, said, "I believe the state put on an overwhelming case. It was a just verdict."

But Mr. Glinka added, "Nothing will bring my sister back."

Sister MaryAnn, 51, was found dead early March 19 near the front door of the Franciscan motherhouse in the the 3700 block of Ellerslie Ave. Her bound body was found face down, naked from the waist down.

According to testimony in the four-day trial, Sister MaryAnn, whose duties included monitoring the motherhouse's security system, responded to an alarm triggered by a damaged door to the convent's library by reporting a false alarm about 1:30 the morning of her death. She apparently was attacked minutes later, on her way to check on the door.

The slaying provoked outrage among citizens and politicians, some of whom said its symbolism made it noteworthy even in a city besieged by violent crime.

The jury received the case shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday, following closing arguments in which prosecutors said Jones made "mistakes" that produced evidence of his guilt and Jones' attorney argued that the circumstantial evidence proved nothing.

Mr. Doory said a thumbprint found on the cellophane wrapper of a box of chocolates in the convent was "proof positive" that Jones was the killer, in part because it was found in a location where cash had been stored when Jones was a painter and handyman at the convent years earlier.

Jones was trying to steal the few dollars the sisters keep in the convent but was working with "outdated intelligence," the prosecutor said.

Mr. Doory also pointed to a matchbook found at the convent with the phone number of Jones' girlfriend scrawled inside it and to a wristwatch that once belonged to Sister MaryAnn and was found in Jones' pocket when he was arrested. He described Jones as "a killer so vain and so vulgar he would keep a trinket like that in his pocket."

Defense lawyer Phillip M. Sutley said the "critical" piece of evidence in the case was a Negroid hair, with root intact, that was found on Sister MaryAnn's body. He said the hair, which did not from Jones, came from the killer.

"Someday maybe they'll find that person, and I just hope one day I won't have to go to Loudon Park [cemetery] and say, 'Melvin, they found the man,' " Mr. Sutley told the jury.

The defense also presented alibi testimony from Jones' relatives, who said he was home with an asthma attack at the time of the slay- ing.

Prosecutors said that testimony was false and called to the stand a Baltimore City Detention Center official who said Jones did not report having asthma when he was screened there in March and in 1989.

Jones did not take the stand in his own defense. Mr. Sutley said his client's criminal record, which includes convictions for manslaughter and burglary, would have been too damaging to any credibility he might have had before a jury.

Mr. Sutley said Jones has maintained from the start that he had nothing to do with the break-in or the slaying.

After the verdict was announced, Mr. Sutley said he would call Jones' relatives as witnesses during the sentencing phase to show that the defendant comes from a caring family.

"Hopefully they'll see fit to spare his life," Mr. Sutley said.

Mr. Doory said the jury had already heard the factors that made Jones deserving of the death penalty: that the murder was committed in the course of a sexual assault and other felonies.

Before the case went to the jury yesterday, Mr. Doory moved to dismiss charges of first-degree and second-degree rape. That came after doubts were raised about whether the defendant could be found guilty of rape in the wake of testimony from a medical examiner that Sister MaryAnn was already dead when she was sexually assaulted.

Mr. Doory said he moved to drop the rape charges so that the jury would not become bogged down in a controversy over whether the victim was dead at the time of the assault and thus whether a rape had actually occurred under the law.

"You cannot rape a person who is deceased," Judge John C. Themelis instructed the jury.

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