Man appeals conviction on 'speedy trial' grounds

December 12, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

A Middle River man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday in Harford Circuit Court for armed robbery asked his lawyer to seek to have the state Court of Special Appeals overturn the conviction because he did not receive a speedy trial.

Douglas Jerome Moore, 30, of the first block of Ortley Court has spent 463 days in jail since his arrest after the robbery of the Shell Food Mart in Fallston Sept. 4, 1992.

Moore was convicted in Circuit Court Oct. 29. Five previously scheduled trials had been postponed for lack of an available judge or jury.

Robert Winkler, a public defender representing Moore, said he will base Moore's appeal on constitutional grounds as well as the state's 180-day law requiring that defendants in criminal cases originating in Circuit Court have their cases heard within 180 days of the date they are arraigned or an attorney enters an appearance on their behalf.

Moore's 180-day clock began Oct. 14, 1992, and went into overtime on April 12, 1993, said prosecutor Mark Nelson, an assistant state's attorney.

The 180-day law does allow cases to be postponed for good cause.

Postponements for lack of an available judge or jury routinely are ruled good cause in Harford County.

Moore's appeal essentially would challenge that ruling.

The Harford Circuit Court has four judges to dispose of about 7,000 cases annually.

William O. Carr, the administrative judge for Harford, received permission from Robert C. Murphy, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, to treat the backlog of criminal cases as a court emergency.

The good-cause clause is frequently invoked.

In most postponed cases in which a defendant does not waive his right to a speedy trial, the cases are rescheduled soon enough to meet the deadline.

Some, such as Moore's, miss the deadline and motions to dismiss the case on the speedy trial issue are filed but seldom granted.

Mr. Winkler said last summer that he thought Moore's case could be the one to test the state law and its good-cause clause.

On Wednesday Carl Schlaich, a defense attorney in another case that has dragged on for nearly two years, argued before Judge Cypert O. Whitfill that the so-called emergency in the Harford Circuit Court has not been addressed properly.

Mr. Schlaich said he understood the court's budget problems -- not being able to hire more judges -- caused the emergency, but did not understand why that situation has been allowed to prejudice his client's case.

Judge Whitfill said that the backlog problem has been presented to the legislature and, until the legislature solves it, cases will have to be postponed when no judge is available.

That was the case Thursday when Moore had another trial on armed robbery charges postponed. It, too, has exceeded 180 days.

In Moore's first trial, testimony showed he was arrested a short while after the 1 a.m. incident in Fallston.

A Shell Food Mart clerk identified Moore as the man who robbed him, and the jury was shown a videotape of the robbery taken from a surveillance camera in the store.

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