Court to hear inmate's appeal of 5-year addition to sentence

Appellate judges to decide if panel acted within power

February 19, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

When photographer Wayne Resper asked a panel of Anne Arundel County judges to shorten his sentence of life plus five years for trying to kill a witness against him in a shoplifting case, he got five more years in jail and no rehabilitation program.

Maryland's highest court has taken up his appeal of the harsher sentence to determine whether three-judge panels have the authority to do what this one did. The Court of Appeals has placed the case on its May calendar.

Resper was convicted in March of attempted murder, witness intimidation and reckless endangerment of the witness' sister. He was sentenced to life on the attempted-murder charge and five years on the witness-intimidation charge. Whether Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Clayton R. Greene added another five years on the endangerment charge is the issue.

Resper's lawyers argue that the judge combined it with the life term so it was not available for the judicial panel to consider.

County prosecutors, however, say Greene ordered a second five-year term, then made it concurrent with the life term -- a slight distinction, but one that would make it possible for the judicial panel to add it to the rest of the sentence.

Resper's lawyers also argue that nothing in the law allows the judicial panel to take away a recommendation that he be evaluated for a selective psychiatric program in prison.

Just because the law does not spell out every change a panel can make doesn't mean it cannot make them, countered Gary E. Bair, chief of the state attorney general's criminal appellate division.

After he is sentenced, a convict can ask a panel from the court in which he was tried to hear a plea for leniency. The panel can increase, decrease or uphold a sentence. The Anne Arundel panel ruled that Resper's act "cries out for the maximum permissible sentence." Gill Cochran, who represented Resper at his trial, called it "draconian" and "vindictive."

Resper's case attracted attention because he was accused of nearly killing a witness over a $35.96 shoplifting case; it was the second time a witness about to testify against him was shot before appearing in court.

Resper's sister-in-law, Carolyn, and three others were found slain the day before she was to testify against him and his brother, Ronald, in a robbery trial in 1985. The homicide case remains unsolved.

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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