Spicer prosecutor stands by conviction

Other witnesses are reliable, he says

May 02, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The prosecutor and one of three witnesses who identified Brady G. Spicer as the man who sprinted away from a brutal 1990 beating in Annapolis said last week they remain confident that they helped put a guilty man into prison.

Steven M. Sindler, who prosecuted Spicer for the Feb. 22, 1990, near-fatal beating of a popular City Dock restaurant and bar owner, said that while a key witness in the case against Spicer -- the man who first gave Spicer's name to Sindler -- has recanted his testimony, there are still two other witnesses who have not.

"I feel pretty darn confident in the case," Sindler said.

Larry Michael Brown told Anne Arundel County prosecutors that Spicer had questioned him about money-handling at Armadillo's before the crime and named Spicer as the person he saw run past him on the night of the assault. Brown told a Sun reporter last week that he had lied.

Using the information from Brown, prosecutors showed two other witnesses Spicer's picture among an array of photos.

"Is it just a fluke that two other independent people picked out him?" asked Sindler, who is now in private practice.

Brown traded Spicer's name, and accounts of conversations with Spicer plus eyewitness testimony, for probation in his own drug case, Sindler said, but Spicer could have been convicted on the strength of the testimony of the two other witnesses.

The withdrawal of Brown's testimony does not mean Spicer is innocent, he said.

The most critical identification, he said, came from Henry Connick, who came closest to the person who beat bar owner Francis "Bones" Denvir with liquor bottles and nearly killed him. Connick, a bartender at Armadillo's, confronted and chased the attacker, Sindler said.

He said it did not matter much if Brown "was telling the truth or not about Brady Spicer" because Connick confronted the attacker.

"The centerpiece [of the prosecution's case] was Hank Connick," Sindler said.

Denvir was attacked from behind. He said he never saw the person who fractured every bone in his face and fled without taking cash.

Connick first described the man as about 5 feet 9 inches and about 165 pounds. Spicer is about half a foot taller and weighed at least 200 pounds, a difference to which Spicer's defense pointed in appeals.

Connick declined to discuss his testimony last week.

The third eyewitness said he was certain he identified in court the person who sprinted past him at midday.

"I'm sticking behind what I saw and what I said," said witness Sam Novella. "I'm positive, because he ran right in front of me. I was sure when I saw him in court. I looked him right in the eye."

Spicer, 42, has maintained his innocence since his 1992 conviction for assault with intent to murder. He passed a lie-detector test Monday. The examiner, a retired FBI agent-turned-private investigator working for the defense, said results showed Spicer was innocent. Polygraph results are inadmissible in court and the exams are not considered foolproof.

He has served about seven years of a 30-year prison sentence, and has been in the Anne Arundel County jail since January.

Spicer's conviction was upheld on appeal in state courts, but in December U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte said the trial was flawed -- including the witness identifications -- and he ordered Anne Arundel County prosecutors to retry Spicer within four months or free him. The judge who heard the original trial rejected a plea agreement in January, and the state's appeal of the federal ruling will be heard June 8.

Neither Novella nor Connick was absolutely sure in their identifications of Spicer from photographs, according to their early statements. That, in contrast to their more certain identifications in court, troubled Messitte.

While defendants are not obligated to testify in their own defense, Sindler said, Spicer could have testified and included some of the material he now is raising after his conviction. For example, Spicer said he could not have run because of a 1988 knee injury. Medical evidence about that injury was never presented to the jury.

Brown, who recanted his testimony in an interview with The Sun, has refused to talk to investigators from the state's attorney's office. He said he wanted to clear his conscience by recanting.

Both Brown and Spicer had criminal records prior to the 1992 crime.

"He does Brady no good unless he talks to us," said Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for that office. She said unless investigators question Brown, they cannot evaluate his statement that he lied to save himself from prison. (He was later convicted of a probation violation and sentenced to eight years.)

Brown said he might consider talking to an investigator from Spicer's defense, but so far has not.

From jail, Spicer said he understands why Brown, whom he said he knew in passing, would not want to talk to prosecutors. He said he was still grateful that Brown has recanted.

Defense attorneys Carroll L. McCabe and Nancy M. Cohen said they will try to reopen Spicer's post-conviction case and ask the federal courts for permission to add new information. They said their investigators also need to question Brown.

Several police officers testified at the post-conviction hearing that they did not believe Spicer beat Denvir. They never arrested him; Spicer was indicted by a grand jury.

Pub Date: 5/01/99

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