Judge upholds rejection of parole for Caldwell Plan to release killer was conditional, he says

October 17, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

After spending 24 years in prison for murdering two teen-agers, Scott F. Caldwell hoped to move a step closer to freedom yesterday, but he was rebuffed by a Baltimore County judge.

Circuit Judge J. Norris Byrnes ruled that the state parole commission had the right to revoke Caldwell's parole in July, when parole officials discovered they had not told Caroline County prosecutors that he might be freed.

"As I see it, he's lawfully confined," Byrnes told Caldwell and his lawyer, former Gov. Marvin Mandel.

Byrnes added that when the commission changed its mind on July 16 Caldwell had a "conditional parole" and was awaiting an agreement from New York State officials to allow him to be released in Syracuse, his hometown.

Caldwell was convicted in 1973 of murdering sisters Cynthia and Patricia Dean, 13 and 18, at their family's coin-operated laundry outside Hillsboro on the Eastern Shore during an early-morning robbery of $28. At the time, he was a student at Morgan State University.

The case has been caught in a furor over reports that former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, on his last day of office in 1995, reduced Caldwell's double life sentence to 45 years without asking for an in-depth review of the case or advertising the commutation in a newspaper, as required by the state constitution.

Schaefer reduced the sentence at the request of Mandel, a longtime friend and political ally who practices law in Annapolis.

The Caroline County state's attorney is trying to undo Schaefer's action and has subpoenaed him to testify before a grand jury.

Caldwell, who was recently transferred from Jessup to the state correctional institution in Hagerstown, appeared for yesterday's hearing with his lawyers, but made no statements.

Mandel argued unsuccessfully that the commission had no legal right to revoke the parole after two commissioners signed an order in May allowing Caldwell's release.

Mandel also raised questions about a "very strange" drug test of Caldwell's urine.

Caldwell, 46, was found to have an opiate in his urine when it was tested a day before his parole was revoked. He is appealing that decision by prison officials, but the infraction will become part of any future parole hearings and could jeopardize his chances for being released.

"He's been in there, it's his 25th year. When he first went in [prison] in his late 20s, they took him to high schools and colleges to lecture because he had done so well," Mandel said after yesterday's hearing.

"He got his degree magna cum laude at Coppin State. He had never been a problem. All of a sudden there's an opiate infraction," said Mandel, referring to the drug test.

Mandel said the test is suspicious because the results first came back as "invalid." When the urine was tested again, it was found to be positive for drugs.

"We don't know what happened between the time of the two vTC tests," said Mandel, suggesting that the urine sample could have been mishandled.

Mandel said Caldwell has had his urine tested "200 times" over the years and never had a positive result for illegal drugs before.

Richard B. Rosenblatt, assistant attorney general for the parole commission, said he could not confirm that Caldwell was tested 200 times, but he said "there is no record of any prior positive test."

Rosenblatt said it is unclear when there will be another parole hearing to reconsider Caldwell's request for freedom. But he said the "institutional infractions" concerning the drug test will be taken into consideration.

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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