Separate trials denied for 2 accused in death Auto manslaughter charged in crash that killed teacher

October 06, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Two of three men accused of auto manslaughter in the death of a Westminster woman in June lost bids yesterday to have separate trials in Carroll Circuit Court.

Judge Daniel W. Moylan granted the state's motion to join the cases after hearing arguments that consolidation would increase the risk of unfair prejudice toward the defendants.

Prosecutor David P. Daggett said consolidating the cases of co-defendants Mark E. Eppig, 22, of Westminster, Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 21, of Westminster and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 25, of Parkville was a matter of "common sense."

The three are charged in the auto manslaughter of Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu, 42, a Mount Airy Middle School teacher, June 1 on Route 140 near Finksburg. The three are accused of racing on a public highway.

Daggett argued the state's witnesses would be greatly inconvenienced if they had to go to court to testify about the same facts during three trials.

In an earlier proceeding yesterday, Eppig's attorney, David B. Irwin, withdrew a motion seeking a separate trial, telling Moylan that an agreement had been reached with the state. Irwin did not specify the details, and it was unclear if his client would proceed to trial with the others.

Gary W. Wiessner, a Howard County attorney representing Broadfoot, and J. Barry Hughes of Westminster, who represents Hensen, did not comment on Moylan's decision to consolidate their cases.

The lawyers were concerned about a report by Tfc. John Rose of the Maryland State Police barracks in Westminster. Rose reconstructed the accident and took photographs of the cars -- both black Hondas -- that were driven by Broadfoot and Hensen.

The attorneys said statements by one defendant could incriminate another in a consolidated trial. The attorneys hoped to persuade Moylan that written statements made by their clients at Rose's request would likely prejudice jurors.

Daggett said he planned to use the written statements to show only that Broadfoot and Hensen acknowledged driving the Hondas east on Route 140 near Finksburg.

He said witnesses would testify to seeing three cars, including xTC the black Hondas, traveling east at high speeds on Route 140, darting in and out of traffic about 8 p.m.

In charging documents, police said Eppig was driving a 1991 Nissan, one of the three speeding vehicles. Eppig's Nissan crossed the grass median and collided head-on with a 1997 Mitsubishi driven by Wu, police said.

Wu's daughter Mi-li, a passenger in the Mitsubishi, was flown by MedEvac helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was treated and released the next day.

Eppig was charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of reckless driving, negligent driving, participating in a speed contest, exceeding 85 mph in a 55 mph zone, failing to drive in a reasonable and prudent manner, passing unsafely and failing to reduce speed to avoid a collision.

Hensen and Broadfoot were charged on the same counts, court records show.

Broadfoot also was charged on two counts of failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

Moylan, a retired Washington County Circuit Court judge, was visiting to assist while Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. is on medical leave.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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