The Van Metre Case, and Hickman's Record

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 03, 1994

Let me start by saying that I am proud to have worked for Tom Hickman in the Carroll County state's attorney's office the past 16 years.

During my tenure, I have been tempted to write on many occasions due to misstated facts and out-and-out lies made regarding our office. I now feel compelled to write due to the

editorials and comments made recently against Tom Hickman and our office regarding the James Van Metre case.

I have been involved personally with the Van Metre case from the beginning. I was responsible for handling the extradition of Van Metre and made a minimum of 40 telephone calls to Pennsylvania and Maryland authorities regarding this case from 1992 to 1994.

Our office was most diligent in its efforts to obtain custody of Van Metre. We remained in continual contact with the Adams County District Attorney's office, obtaining monthly updates on trial dates, postponements and other delays. I could write 10 pages stating all the efforts made by our office to secure Van Metre's presence for trial in Carroll County, but I will try to keep it concise.

Extradition laws mandate that states can only obtain custody of imprisoned defendants who are:

* Serving a sentence. (In that case, we proceed under the Interstate Detainer Act).

* All local charges are disposed of in the asylum state. (We would then proceed under the Uniform Extradition Act).

In the Van Metre case, we had neither. Upon discovering that Van Metre had filed post-verdict motions in Pennsylvania and the length of time to dispose of those motions could take up to one-and-a-half years, we made calls to the Attorney General's office and governor's office of Maryland to discover if there was any way to obtain custody of Van Metre while the post-verdict motions were being heard in Pennsylvania.

A month or so later, we received word from the governor's office that we could try an "executive agreement," which consists of an agreement between both governors and would be attached to the extradition request. We immediately prepared these documents and forwarded them to Maryland. Governor Schaefer signed them and sent the documents to Governor Casey in Pennsylvania.

However, because the Adams County District Attorney's office would not agree to release Van Metre prior to his being sentenced (which they were within their rights to demand), the warrant remained unsigned in Governor Casey's office. We continued to work with authorities in both governors' offices and the District Attorney's office in Gettysburg, Pa. to enter into an agreement which would satisfy all parties. Finally, in December 1992, a new executive agreement was drafted, allowing the transportation of Van Metre back and forth between the states, if necessary, and the agreement was signed. We took custody of Van Metre in January and he was tried in April 1993.

The most important fact for the public to realize is that if we did not take the aforementioned steps, we still would not have custody of Van Metre and he would remain untried in Carroll County. His post-verdict motions are still outstanding in Adams County and he has yet to be sentenced.

The Court of Special Appeals' decision stated that we should have scheduled the case for trial, even though Van Metre was incarcerated in Pennsylvania, the authorities would not release him and he had not even been served with his charges or warrant. If the whole concept of the "Hicks" ruling is to secure the speedy trial rights of defendants, didn't we accomplish that task due to the extreme efforts of our office? Didn't we try him years faster than if we had not taken those steps? All of this makes no sense to the public; also realize that it makes no sense to Tom Hickman and the rest of our staff who worked so diligently on this case.

I would also like to stress that Tom Hickman and our entire staff realize the importance of our jobs, we take our responsibilities very seriously, and we genuinely care for the victims and victims' families. All of us work very hard to ensure that justice is realized, and we are also disheartened by the Court of Special Appeals' decision. As you know, we are attempting an appeal to the Court of Appeals; legislation has been proposed to avoid this tragedy ever happening again in Maryland.

I can make all of these statements because I have worked with Tom Hickman and his staff for 16 years, and I see the long hours and the tremendous effort put forth by him and all of his employees to make Carroll County a safe place to live and work. I would encourage everyone in Carroll County to seek the truth, before you believe everything you read in the newspaper.

ill S. Bachman

Westminster

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Your editorial on the blunder made by Carroll County State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman Jr. was right on target. Because of Mr. Hickman's arrogance or inattention, a convicted murderer who had asked a judge to sentence him to death would walk free if not jailed for another crime.

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