Barnes for GOP State's Attorney

August 31, 1994

For more than two decades, State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman has had tight control over criminal-justice operations in Carroll County. The time has come to replace him.

After five terms in office, Mr. Hickman has developed an arrogance that hinders the effective prosecution of criminals. One needs to look no further than the case of James Howard VanMetre III, the confessed killer of Holly Blake, a Pennsylvania woman whose charred remains were found in a Carroll field in 1991. This convicted rapist and murderer could very well have been free because Mr. Hickman decided to ignore a basic, well-known Maryland rule of procedure.

Had Mr. Hickman followed the so-called Hicks rule, which requires prosecutors to begin criminal trials within 180 days after a defendant's attorney files his or her appearance in the court record, VanMetre would be facing a life-without-parole sentence Maryland. At the time he was scheduled to stand trial, VanMetre was jailed in Pennsylvania. Instead of applying for a postponement, Mr. Hickman decided that the Hicks rule did not apply.

As the Court of Special Appeals pointed out in overturning the case, Carroll prosecutors failed to follow procedures and apply for a waiver, which would have delayed the trial until VanMetre was extradited to Maryland. Fortunately, Pennsylvania prosecutors were able to convict VanMetre on a separate charge of raping an Adams County woman. Otherwise, VanMetre, a true menace, would be free.

On the basis of this case alone, Mr. Hickman doesn't deserve to be returned to office. His stewardship of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force raises other troubling concerns. His refusal to allow a thorough audit of the task force and abide by the normal controls and oversight followed by other branches of government does not speak well of a man whose job is to enforce the law.

In the Republican primary, The Sun endorses Jerry Barnes. An assistant prosecutor in Frederick who supervises that county's drug task force, Mr. Barnes has the experience and qualifications necessary to run the state's attorney office. He lost to Mr. Hickman in a run for the Carroll job in 1990.

Westminster attorney Linda Holmes, the Democratic nominee, is running unopposed.

=- Tomorrow: The 6th Congressional District.

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