State won't seek death in killing

June 10, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore man charged in the 1993 strangulation of Columbia teen-ager Tara Allison Gladden will not face the death penalty, Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon announced yesterday.

Ms. McLendon said the circumstances of the slaying do not meet the state's strict legal requirements to support the death penalty for 29-year-old Curtis Aden Jamison, now in prison for having sex with two other girls.

Attorney David Harvis, a Gladden family friend and spokesman, said the Gladdens have "mixed feelings" about Ms. McLendon's decision against the death penalty and the law that influenced her decision.

"There is . . . a tremendous feeling of loss," Mr. Harvis said. "The family obviously believes that Mr. Jamison is responsible for Tara's death."

However, Mr. Harvis added, the Gladdens understand Ms. McLendon's decision, noting that they have been in regular contact with prosecutors.

Edward Smith, a Baltimore attorney for Jamison, said Ms. McLendon made the proper decision against the death penalty. He declined to comment further.

Ms. McLendon said the case does not support any of the 10 "aggravating circumstances" that enable prosecutors to seek the death penalty in first-degree murder cases. At least one of these factors must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt -- regardless of the crime's brutality -- -- before the death penalty can be pursued.

These factors include the victim's being a law-enforcement officer or the defendant's having committed murder while committing another felony crime, such as robbery.

Ms. McLendon said her office will consider seeking a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Prosecutors have until 30 days before Jamison's Aug. 7 trial to notify his attorney whether they will seek this sentence.

Otherwise, if he is convicted of the slaying, Jamison could be sentenced to life -- becoming eligible for parole after serving 15 years.

Portia Cox, of the Stephanie Roper Committee and Foundation, a victims' rights group, said sentences of life without parole are sometimes better for victims' families, because death penalties are often difficult to obtain and provide convicted killers with many potential appeals.

Jamison, who is serving a 20-year sentence at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, was indicted in December by a Howard County grand jury after a 17-month police investigation of the 15-year-old's death.

Jamison, who police contend had a sexual relationship with Miss Gladden, was named as a suspect after a volunteer search dog team found her nude, decomposed body in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway, near her home on Vantage Point Road in Columbia.

Because of the condition of her body when it was found on Aug. 17, 1993, officials could only estimate that she had died shortly after her July 22 disappearance.

During the first weeks after Miss Gladden vanished, police focused on Jamison's illegal sexual relationships with underage girls while they continued their investigation.

Jamison has been in prison since September for having sex with a 12-year-old Columbia girl last year and a 13-year-old Baltimore girl in 1992. During their investigation, police learned that Jamison had sex with one of the girls in the culvert where Miss Gladden's body was found.

Prosecutors were forced in November 1993 to drop charges against Jamison for his alleged sexual relationship with Miss Gladden because they could not get a conviction without her testimony.

Jamison is the second defendant in a high-profile murder case not to face the death penalty since Ms. McLendon took office in January.

In April, she decided against the death penalty for Daniel Scott Harney, who is accused of murdering his Ellicott City wife and fleeing Maryland with their young sons.

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