Killer wants death penalty Metheny cancels witnesses

jury to begin deliberation

November 13, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Convicted killer Joseph R. Metheny abruptly canceled all the witnesses scheduled to testify yesterday in his defense against the death penalty and told a Baltimore County judge he wants to die.

Metheny, who in August pleaded guilty to strangling Cathy Ann Magaziner in 1994, told his lawyers he did not want the jury to hear from nurses, prison officials, a social worker and a friend who had arrived at the Towson courthouse to testify on his behalf.

When Judge James T. Smith Jr. reminded Metheny the jury needs to "get the whole picture" before deciding if Metheny should die, the killer said, "I want [the witnesses] stricken. I don't want them."

When the judge asked Metheny his reason, he said, "I want the death penalty, your honor."

Metheny's decision to cancel all testimony on his behalf surprised courtroom observers and left the judge wondering aloud if he could allow Metheny to go without a defense. He finally said the decision was up to defense lawyers.

Metheny's lawyer, Margaret Mead, said, "The defense will rest."

Metheny, a large man with two tiny tattoos in the shape of tears on his left cheek, is scheduled to address the jury today after his other lawyer, Catherine Flynn, makes a statement. The jury is then expected to begin deliberation.

Prosecutors have addressed the jury and presented testimony that included tape-recorded confessions from Metheny.

Metheny, 43, said he strangled Magaziner, a prostitute, in his trailer at a Southwest Baltimore pallet company, then buried her body in the woods nearby, with her purse and clothes.

Police later dug up her skeleton with part of the skull missing. Metheny told police he dug the skeleton up months after the murder and threw the skull away.

Metheny is serving life without parole for the 1996 murder of Kimberly Spicer, and another 50 years for kidnapping and an attempted sex offense of Rita Kemper, also in 1996.

In 1996, he was acquitted on charges of murdering two homeless men, Randy Piker and Randall Brewer, both 33. He was also acquitted of attempting to murder Kemper.

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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