Imprisoned slayer says he expected leniency

April 12, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Even though he had fatally shot an acquaintance from South Carroll High School hours before he was arrested by police in 1987, Brian Tracy -- then 16 -- thought he probably would not have to serve any time behind bars, Tracy said yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court.

"I thought that they'd be lenient on me," the convicted murderer, now 23, said yesterday during his post-conviction relief hearing before Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. "I thought that I'd get probation, or a light sentence or community service or something."

Instead, after a Carroll jury convicted him of the Nov. 22, 1987, slaying of Richard Purman, Tracy was sentenced to two life terms plus 40 years, which he is serving at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore. The conviction and all but 20 years of the sentence have been upheld by Maryland's appellate courts.

Tracy asked for yesterday's hearing last year. He claimed prosecutors, police and now-retired Carroll Circuit Judge Donald J. Gilmore deprived him of several constitutional rights. He is seeking to have his convictions overturned, his sentence vacated and his case retried.

Judge Burns will rule on Tracy's request later, after a second hearing where he will hear testimony from state troopers.

Tracy said that when he was questioned by a state police trooper the night of Nov. 23, 1987, he confessed because the trooper led him to believe he would be treated easier by the system.

Tracy said that while he was giving a phony story to the trooper, the trooper stopped him and told him his co-defendants were saying Tracy shot young Purman.

"He told me he wanted to be able to tell my father and the judge that I told the truth," Tracy said yesterday. "I thought that meant they'd be lenient."

Under cross-examination by State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, Tracy said he didn't know the consequences of murder. "You didn't know that shooting someone to the death is a serious matter by nearly every country in the world?" the prosecutor asked.

"No, I did not," Tracy said.

"You thought you'd get probation or community service?"

"Yeah."

Tracy, of Taylorsville, and Brain Jordan, 23, of Columbia, were convicted in 1988 of young Purman's murder. Each received the same sentence.

On Nov. 22, 1987, Jordan, Tracy and a 16-year-old girl had escaped from the Sykesville Shelter Home. They called Richard Purman, an acquaintance from high school, and persuaded him to give them a ride.

In Taylorsville, Tracy shot young Purman in the chest, intending to steal his 1976 Chevy Malibu. When the car wouldn't start, the three returned to the shelter, where they were later arrested. The girl cooperated with the state's attorney's office, and her case was handled in Juvenile Court.

While testifying yesterday, Tracy occasionally looked toward young Purman's father, mother, one of his sisters and his best friend, who were sitting in the first two rows behind Mr. Hickman.

James Purman, Richard's father, never returned the glances, instead looking mostly toward the ceiling while Tracy testified. Richard's mother, Elaine Breeding, looked toward Tracy when he talked about what type of punishment he thought he would get for killing her son.

"He couldn't say with a straight face that he would get community service for killing my child," Mrs. Breeding said after the half-hour hearing. "I want the right thing to be done, whatever that may be."

Mr. Purman, an activist for victims' rights, said after the hearing that such court appearances take him back to the scene of Richard's death.

"I always go back," he said. "All I'm doing is seeing Richard's body sit there, lifeless."

Tracy's parents -- who smiled at their son when he was led into the courtroom in shackles -- refused to comment yesterday. Before the hearing, Mr. Purman approached them, shook their hands, and told them he knew that the process has been rough on them, too.

"I'm constantly aware of their pain," he said.

"But, you know, no one on that side has said anything like that to me."

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