Hunt's death-sentence appeal denied June execution possible

He was convicted in 1985 slaying of police officer

April 24, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Condemned inmate Flint Gregory Hunt took a step closer to the Maryland gas chamber yesterday as a Baltimore circuit judge denied an appeal of his death sentence.

The denial by Judge David Ross sets the stage for prosecutors to seek a warrant for his execution for the 1985 killing of Baltimore police Officer Vincent Adolfo. That means an execution could take place as early as June, although appeals could delay it by months.

"We're seriously considering filing for a death warrant soon," said Baltimore Assistant State's Attorney Timothy J. Doory.

Hunt's lawyer, Thomas C. Morrow, said he was "very disappointed" and would request an appeal of Judge Ross' decision to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Mr. Morrow called Judge Ross' ruling "very significant. That was the opportunity to present what we felt were substantive issues before the court."

If Hunt's state appeal fails, he could petition the U.S. Supreme Court, although that court refused a separate Hunt appeal in January. Hunt also could seek relief in federal court, although recent legislation limits condemned prisoners' options to do so.

The Court of Appeals overturned Hunt's first death sentence in 1987, but a Baltimore jury reinstated it in 1988.

The appeal before Judge Ross centered on several issues, including a 1986 memo by Assistant State's Attorney Sam Brave that indicated prosecutors told a key witness in Hunt's case that they would bring his cooperation to the attention of a judge in a separate assault case.

The memo appeared to contradict the statements of the witness, Aaron McNair, and prosecutors at Hunt's trial that no promises were made for Mr. McNair's testimony.

Mr. McNair signed an affidavit in October saying he was "mistaken" when he testified that he saw Hunt fire a second shot at Officer Adolfo -- testimony that was key in establishing premeditation and therefore qualified Hunt for the death penalty.

"I repeatedly dream that I see Mr. Hunt strapped to a chair with someone about to inject him with poison," Mr. McNair wrote in the affidavit. "Society has nothing to gain by executing Mr. Hunt."

Judge Ross wrote that Mr. McNair's trial testimony probably was more accurate than his later recollection. He noted that ballistics evidence at the trial showed that both bullets came from the same gun.

The judge said he believed the prosecutor's memo to be inaccurate.

"While perhaps not commonplace, it is certainly not unknown in human experience that an individual will inadvertently make a statement in writing which does not accurately reflect the true facts," Judge Ross wrote.

The judge also dismissed other issues raised by Hunt, including allegations that two jurors were unqualified to serve, that his lawyers neglected to point out erroneous jury instructions, and that holding Hunt for nearly 10 years while he waited to die amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

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