6-month obstacle remains after 30 years in prison Escape waiver requested after sentence is lifted

December 13, 1997|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A Maryland prison inmate hoping to be home for Christmas after serving 30 years on a murder charge is trying another legal approach to make that happen.

Lawyers for James McKeldin Simms asked a panel of judges yesterday to modify its recent order lifting his murder sentence to add that he also does not have to serve a six-month sentence on another charge.

Simms has been incarcerated since he was 16 for killing a clerk at a general store in his hometown in Calvert County. A three-judge panel in Howard County decided last month to suspend his life sentence because of a violation of his rights years ago.

But his lawyers and corrections officials later discovered the order did not apply to his six-month sentence on an escape charge.

This week, attorney Ralph S. Tyler petitioned Gov. Parris N. Glendening to spare Simms the additional time. A spokesman for Glendening said the governor will decide soon.

The original order called for Simms to be freed Christmas Eve.

Simms won his release because his sentence was never reviewed by a three-judge panel. Such hearings usually take place 30 days after sentencing, but Simms' lawyer at the time did not inform him of his right to a review.

The judges concluded that Simms had served more time than is typical for a life sentence.

The current review took place in Howard County because Simms was tried there after the trial was moved from Calvert County. The first jury could not reach a verdict; a second convicted him in June 1969 of killing Doris Mae Gibson, 42.

The additional sentence stems from an escape in 1980, when Simms was on a work detail. He turned himself in and has been a model prisoner since.

Pub Date: 12/13/97

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