Defense to seek ban on use of TV show's name in slaying trial

July 07, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

When Daniel Scott Harney goes to trial this month in the slaying of his estranged wife, his attorney wants prosecutors to be barred from mentioning the name "America's Most Wanted" -- the television show that helped capture his client.

Columbia attorney Clarke Ahlers said yesterday at a Howard Circuit Court hearing that he will ask the judge to prohibit prosecutors from referring to the crime show by name for fear that it will bias jurors against Mr. Harney.

Mr. Ahlers said he hopes to avoid implications of "evilness" from a segment of the show which details matters involving suspects.

The defense attorney also voiced concern that publicity about the case harms Mr. Harney's chances of getting a fair trial.

He said he intends to request that the trial judge ask prospective jurors whether television and newspaper accounts about the slaying led them to decide whether Mr. Harney is guilty before hearing any testimony.

Mr. Ahlers and prosecutors will take up these issues and other legal matters at a July 26 hearing -- five days before Mr. Harney's trial is set to start. Prosecutors did not respond to the "America's Most Wanted" issue yesterday.

Police detectives turned to producers of the show for a segment on the case after a traditional investigation failed to locate Mr. Harney.

A segment on the case aired Jan. 7 -- minutes before Mr. Harney was arrested outside a hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Police were led to the hotel after a woman who interviewed Mr. Harney for a job recognized him on an advertisement for the episode.

Mr. Harney, 40, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of his wife, Shirley Scott Harney, 41, from whom he was separated. He also is charged with attempted murder of William Helmbold, 45, of Woodlawn, who was shot in the right arm.

Prosecutors intend to seek a sentence of life imprisonment without parole if Mr. Harney is convicted.

Police said in a report filed in circuit court that Mr. Harney picked up his sons at his wife's home Dec. 26 for a holiday visit. While the boys slept at his Owings Mills apartment, police said, Mr. Harney entered Mrs. Harney's house in the 5000 block of Brampton Parkway in Ellicott City through a basement window.

The police report says Mr. Harney confronted his wife and Mr. Helmbold in a bedroom. Mrs. Harney and Mr. Helmbold were struck and shot.

Mr. Harney then went to the living room, with Mrs. Harney and Mr. Helmbold following him, police said. Mrs. Harney was forced outside, where Mr. Harney's car hit her and dragged her to the end of the driveway, police said.

Mr. Harney fled Maryland with his two sons -- Ryan, 8, and Paul, 10 -- taking them to Walt Disney World in Florida before going to North Carolina, where he was arrested.

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