Witness puts Ward near crime scene

February 07, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

Testimony was expected to resume today in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in the trial of Bernard L. Ward, who is being retried for a five-year-old murder after his conviction was overturned in 1992.

Mr. Ward, 33, formerly of Glen Burnie, is accused of killing Edward Brewer, 25, of Baltimore.

Mr. Brewer was stabbed and strangled and his body was found in an abandoned house along Crain Highway on Dec. 12, 1988, about a month after he was killed.

Mr. Ward was arrested four days after police found the body. Witnesses identified him in photographs and told investigators they saw him near the victim's car, which had been set afire in a parking lot about 50 yards from the house where the body was found.

On Friday, Angela Walson, a 33-year-old mother of two who lived in an apartment overlooking the parking lot, testified that she saw Mr. Ward standing near Mr. Brewer's white Chevrolet Camaro with two other men the night of the murder.

Referring to her 1988 statement to police, she said the three men walked away from the victim's car and toward the abandoned house where the body was later found. Two of the men came out of the house, and one of them was Mr. Ward, she testified.

"There's no doubt in my mind," she said.

During her testimony, Mrs. Walson appeared tense, repeatedly massaging her forehead and dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Before jurors were brought into the courtroom Friday afternoon, she told Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. that she was afraid to come to court because three men had been lurking outside her house and taking pictures of her from cars parked near her home.

She said the harassment started last month after she testified at a pretrial hearing for the Ward case.

"I know what we're doing here. I'm just scared," she said.

Mrs. Walson said she never confronted any of the men and never called the police.

She said there would be nothing police could do because no crime had been committed.

"Every time I open my door they're out there, just snapping pictures or whatever," she said, clenching a tissue in her fist.

Judge Duckett agreed to let her testify without giving her home address.

"She's scared. She's scared on behalf of herself and her children," the judge told the attorneys.

Mrs. Walson's testimony was another bizarre twist in a trial that has been full of them.

Last week, two other prosecution witnesses recanted statements they made to police that Mr. Ward knew the victim.

A third witness subpoenaed to testify to the same fact could not be located.

Assistant State's Attorneys Ronald Naditch and William C. Mulford II had hoped to use the statements to contradict Mr. Ward's claims that he did not know the victim.

"I know this has been a bizarre case for everyone, including the jury," Mr. Naditch told Judge Duckett Friday.

Fred Heyman, one of Mr. Ward's two attorneys, said it could be that the witnesses are not recanting, but just refusing to testify to what police investigators persuaded them to say in pretrial interviews.

Mr. Heyman and Carl Schlaich, the Bel Air lawyers representing Mr. Ward for free, said they will present several witnesses this week who will place Mr. Ward in Florida at the time of the murder.

They maintain that the state's witnesses are mistaken.

"A lot will depend on these witnesses we have coming in," Mr. Heyman said.

Mr. Ward pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 1989, cutting short his trial, after prosecutors offered him a life sentence instead of life without parole.

But he won a retrial in November 1992, when a judge ruled that Mr. Ward's former lawyer was so incompetent that his client was denied his constitutional rights when he decided to enter an Alford plea of guilt.

Under the plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that the state has sufficient evidence to convict him.

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