1994 murder conviction is upheld But kidnapping case against Gross rejected

February 27, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A state appeals court upheld yesterday the 1994 murder conviction of a Shady Side man, but ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him of kidnapping.

The Court of Special Appeals said it was "sheer speculation" that Alvin Gross kidnapped Margaret Courson from the Annapolis City Dock before shooting her and dumping her body in a cornfield in December 1993.

However, the court said there was sufficient evidence to convict Gross, 23, of first-degree murder -- noting that she had been shot four times, twice in the neck at close range. "Upholding the kidnapping conviction in this case would mean that virtually every rape or homicide also constitutes a kidnapping," a three-judge panel said in a 43-page decision.

Gross, of the 4800 block of Atwell Road, was convicted by an Anne Arundel Circuit jury of first-degree murder, first-degree rape and kidnapping in the Dec. 19, 1993 slaying.

Cynthia M. Ferris, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case, said the ruling would not affect the sentence of life without parole imposed by Judge Bruce C. Williams for the murder.

Ms. Ferris acknowledged that the evidence showing Gross had raped and kidnapped Ms. Courson was weak. She said that was why prosecutors withdrew the death penalty just before the case went to trial in November 1994.

"I was surprised that the jurors found him guilty of the rape and the kidnapping as easily as they did," Ms. Ferris said.

Peter S. O'Neill, Gross' lawyer, said he hopes the reversal of the kidnapping conviction will help when he argues for a reduced sentence at a hearing before an Anne Arundel Circuit judge.

Mr. O'Neill said Gross' race -- he is black -- may have hurt his client's chances with the jury, which was made up of 11 whites and one black.

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