Man whose trial was postponed 17 times pleads guilty, is released

January 12, 1999|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

After three years behind bars awaiting trial on a murder charge, William T. Flowers pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court -- and got to go home.

Flowers, 21, whose case had been postponed 17 times, received a suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain after police could not find a key file to make the case against him.

"His smile looked as big as the courtroom," said Flowers' mother, Annie Cunningham, who was eagerly awaiting her son's arrival at her North Stricker Street home last night. "The judge said, `I can't understand this. How can the police lose the file?' "

Without the file, the prosecutor decided to cut a deal. Flowers pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and possession of a handgun. He was given a suspended sentence of 23 years with credit for the time he had served. He will be on probation for 3 1/2 years, said Flowers' attorney, Roland Walker.

The file at issue was the original set of six photos from which a witness selected Flowers as the man responsible for a killing at a pool hall on North Calhoun Street. Police said Friday that they could not find the original pictures and had copies. But the copies were distorted by the photocopy machine and could not be used as evidence.

Assistant State's Attorney Gary D. Schenker said detectives searched for the file Friday and yesterday morning. Judge Thomas Ward then gave him until 11 a.m. to track it down.

"We couldn't find it," Schenker said.

Flowers was charged with shooting a man six times in 1995 in a dispute over a girl. He could have faced life in prison if convicted of the first-degree murder charge.

Flowers' case was postponed for several reasons.

His trial was first delayed in May 1996 because Schenker was handling three homicide cases scheduled for trial that week.

Later, the court was too busy to handle the matter; the prosecutor or police were on leave, tied up in another trial or on vacation; or Flowers' attorney was handling another case or was out of town.

Pub Date: 1/12/99

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