Judicial panel lightens killer's life sentences

May 29, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Jim Purman has been through the routine before, watching his son's killers plead for shorter sentences and new trials in courtrooms from Westminster to Annapolis for six years.

Brian Richard Jordan and Brian Matthew Tracy have sought adjustments before in their double-life sentences for the 1987 murder of 17-year-old Richard Purman. But the recent move by a trio of Anne Arundel Circuit judges to halve Jordan's term has left Mr. Purman almost numb.

"I'm really speechless," he said last week of the May 20 decision to allow Jordan to serve his two life sentences concurrently rather than consecutively.

"I really feel more defeated than angry, but there's nothing more we can do," said Mr. Purman of Sykesville. "We have no right of appeal."

Jordan, 23, of Columbia and Tracy, 23, of Taylorsville were convicted in 1988 of Richard Purman's murder. The youth, who was giving the two a ride in his car, was shot in the chest in a secluded area of Taylorsville as Jordan and Matthew were trying to steal his car.

Both defendants -- they were 16 when the murder was committed -- were sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 20 years. Various courts have lopped 20 years off Jordan's sentence and 10 years off Tracy's.

The May 20 order handed down by Judges Bruce C. Williams, Martin A. Wolff and Eugene M. Lerner was not unanimous. Judge Lerner, in his dissent, called the decision wrong.

Jordan, "in my mind, poses a real threat to society. I see no remorse in his heart; he did not turn to the family and apologize," Judge Lerner wrote. "His attitude seems to be, 'How can I get out?' Strong lasting punishment is necessary."

According to Judge Lerner and state parole officials, Jordan's shorter sentence means he could be paroled in as little as five or six years. More than 90 percent of all prisoners in Maryland are denied parole at their first hearing and more than half of those on life sentences serve an average of 18 years before they are freed.

Westminster attorney J. Barry Hughes, who has represented Jordan since the trial, argued to the Arundel judges that his client's contribution to the killing was less than Tracy's and that Jordan was a passive follower in the Purman killing.

Judges Williams and Wolff concurred somewhat with Mr. Hughes' portrayal of his client.

"The youth of the defendant and the degree and extent of his participation suggest that the consecutive life sentences . . . should be modified," they wrote.

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