Arbutus man acquitted of all robbery charges

April 24, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

An Arbutus man who maintained his innocence since his arrest last June on charges arising from an armed robbery at an Elkridge liquor store has been found not guilty by a Howard Circuit Court jury.

Dennis Edwin O'Donnell Jr., 34, was acquitted of armed robbery, robbery and a weapons violation by a jury of seven women and five men that deliberated about 2 1/2 hours Thursday.

Mr. O'Donnell was accused of pulling a revolver on the owner of the Elkridge Liquors shop in the 5800 block of Washington Blvd. and taking about $150 on June 9.

Preston Pairo III, an Ellicott City attorney for Mr. O'Donnell, maintains that county prosecutors should never have proceeded against his client.

He asserted that police or prosecutors should have given Mr. O'Donnell a polygraph test after they learned Mr. O'Donnell paid for and passed a private polygraph test that showed he did not rob the liquor store.

"I'm still bothered the state even prosecuted this case," Mr. Pairo said. "What would it have taken to give this man a lie-detector test?"

But Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage said the prosecution had no reason to offer Mr. O'Donnell a polygraph test because it had a witness who identified Mr. O'Donnell as the robber.

"It would be unreasonable for a prosecutor to rely upon a polygraph test over the testimony of an eyewitness," Ms. Gage said in a written statement.

"[Mr.] O'Donnell wanted justice, and that's what he received, a jury trial in which all the evidence was presented."

During Mr. O'Donnell's three-day trial, Mr. Pairo was not permitted to make any reference to his client's polygraph test before the jurors, according to an order by Judge Dennis Sweeney.

Results of polygraph tests are not allowed as evidence in trials under Maryland law.

With no references to polygraph tests permitted, Mr. Pairo focused on varying descriptions of the suspect given by witnesses, including the victim.

He also told the jury that police investigators never found the handgun used during the robbery when they conducted a search of Mr. O'Donnell's home.

Mr. O'Donnell became a suspect when he went to the liquor store and bought beer nine days after the robbery.

The shop's owner, Germanus John Blottenberger Jr., testified that he immediately recognized the man as the one who robbed him. He wrote down the license number of Mr. O'Donnell's Chevrolet Nova while his father called police, he testified.

Mr. O'Donnell is at the county Detention Center awaiting trial on two additional cases, one for heroin possession and another for a burglary.

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