Prosecutor is called to the stand

March 30, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A post-conviction hearing for death-row inmate Kevin Wiggins took an unusual turn yesterday when his new attorneys called a Baltimore County prosecutor as a witness.

At issue was a failed lie-detector test by Wiggins' former girlfriend, Geraldine M. Armstrong of Randallstown. She was arrested and charged with him in the 1988 murder and robbery of a 77-year-old Woodlawn woman, but testified against Wiggins and was not prosecuted.

Ms. Armstrong appeared briefly Monday, but invoked her constitutional protection against self-incrimination when asked point-blank questions about whether she was involved in the killing.

She and Wiggins were caught with the car and credit cards of Florence Lacs, who was found Sept. 17, 1988, choked and drowned in a bathtub filled with insecticide and household cleaners. The victim lived at the Clark Manor apartments, where Wiggins worked as a painter.

Given Ms. Armstrong's refusal to testify, attorney Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said he needed testimony by Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst.

Ms. Brobst testified that she was certain she had told a defense attorney before the 1989 trial about Ms. Armstrong's failed polygraph test.

"I recall that as we went to trial, I was confident she had every piece of paper I had," she said.

The police polygraph report said Ms. Armstrong "did not tell the truth" when asked four questions: whether she helped plan the killing; whether she killed the victim; whether she was present at the killing and whether she took anything from the apartment.

Ms. Brobst agreed that these results would be of interest to anyone defending Wiggins.

A polygraph is not admissible as evidence in Maryland. But under a long-standing Supreme Court ruling in a Maryland case, prosecutors must give the defense anything that might indicate a defendant's innocence.

On Monday, Wiggins' new attorneys called his trial attorneys as witnesses, asking why they hadn't presented evidence of his abusive childhood, why they hadn't cross-examined a medical examiner who changed her statement about the critical question of the time of death, and why they continued to argue Wiggins' innocence at the death penalty sentencing hearing after he had been convicted.

Judge John F. Fader II scheduled final arguments on the hearing next Wednesday. Wiggins is seeking a new trial or a life sentence.

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