Review sought in conviction reversal

June 16, 1994|By From Staff Reports

The state attorney general's office will ask the Maryland Court of Appeals to review the reversal of a first-degree murder conviction against a Pennsylvania man accused of strangling and burning a woman on a Carroll County farm.

Gary E. Bair, chief of the attorney general's criminal appeals division, said yesterday that he would prepare a brief within several weeks asking the state's highest court to review the June 6 reversal decision by the Court of Special Appeals.

The intermediate court last week threw out James Howard VanMetre III's conviction because Carroll prosecutors failed to follow the state's trial-scheduling rule.

The court said the Carroll state's attorney should have asked a judge to waive the rule -- which calls for trials within 180 days of an attorney's involvement in a case -- when it was clear that VanMetre would not be released by Pennsylvania authorities in time for his trial.

Mr. Bair said his office is seeking the higher court's opinion on the trial rule.

The attorney general's office contends that the rule shouldn't apply in this case, because VanMetre was being held on an unrelated rape charge in Pennsylvania and was unavailable for trial within six months.

VanMetre was convicted last year of strangling Holly Ann Blake, 28, on Sept. 26, 1991, while they were on their first date. He also was accused of burning her body several hours later and spreading the charred remains along the Monocacy River in Harney.

He had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Court of Appeals could refuse to hear the case, which would mean the reversal would stand.

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