Defendant says slaying confession was coerced

January 11, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A 33-year-old Glen Burnie man whose murder conviction was overturned because his lawyer was incompetent told a Circuit Court judge yesterday that the confession used against him was coerced and that police in Florida supplied him with details about the killing after his arrest.

Bernard L. Ward Jr. is to be retried Feb. 1 in the slaying of Edward Brewer, who was beaten and stabbed to death in November 1988 in an abandoned house on Crain Highway in Glen Burnie.

Yesterday, Mr. Ward told Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. that he never intended to confess when he was picked up by Leon County sheriff's detectives in Tallahassee, Fla., in 1988, but that he was taken into a small room and repeatedly threatened.

"I was told that I was going to give them a confession whether it took all night or not," he said at a pretrial hearing.

Mr. Ward said that Leon County Sheriff's Detective Sam Bruce threatened him with a "black object" and that he was so scared that he wet his pants. Both the detective and his partner denied coercing any statements from Mr. Ward after picking him up Dec. 16, 1988, at his father-in-law's trailer in Tallahassee.

Fred Heyman, Mr. Ward's new lawyer, is asking that his client's confession as well as the testimony of three witnesses who picked him out of a photographic lineup in the first trial be ruled inadmissible at his new trial.

Mr. Heyman claimed that Anne Arundel County police suggested to the witnesses which of the six photos they displayed was that of the suspect. Mr. Brewer's nude corpse was discovered about a month after the murder. Mr. Ward was picked up after witnesses placed him at the scene of the murder and said they had seen him leaving a Millersville bar with the victim shortly before he was killed.

Mr. Ward testified yesterday that the detective in Florida fed him information about Mr. Brewer's killing, then made him rehearse his answers before he recited them in the form of a taped `D confession. He later tried to deny the confession, but the detectives wouldn't listen, he said.

"I told him everything was a lie and he knew it," Mr. Ward said. "He said he didn't care because he had it on tape."

Mr. Ward entered an Alford plea to the killing, not admitting guilt, but conceding that the state had enough evidence to convict him, after a four-day trial in July 1989. But Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller overturned the conviction in 1992, finding that George Kariotis, Mr. Ward's lawyer, had been so unprofessional and ineffective that the trial was unfair.

In a 22-page opinion, Judge Heller listed several lapses by Mr. Kariotis, saying that the attorney failed to question witnesses, didn't object once during the four-day trial and met with Mr. Ward only briefly before the trial. Mr. Kariotis has since been disbarred.

During the hearing yesterday, Ronald M. Naditch, a former assistant state's attorney who prosecuted Mr. Ward in 1989 and has been retained to assist in the case, pointed out several inconsistencies in Mr. Ward's testimony.

He noted that Mr. Ward testified earlier that he was told that he was being arrested for two murders when he was picked up in Florida, not one murder, and that he had been arrested 10 times in the past, not five.

During cross-examination, Mr. Naditch reminded Mr. Ward that he had told authorities that he didn't know the victim, but that his father has said the two did know one another.

Judge Duckett, who will try the case next month, is expected to rule on the defense motions today.

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