Beating case witness dies

Brown, 44, recanted testimony from 1992 trial 2 months ago

Spicer claims innocence

June 16, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Larry Michael Brown, who recently recanted sworn statements that helped convict an Annapolis man of the beating of a restaurateur in 1990 in a high-profile case, died yesterday.

Brown, 44, of Annapolis, told The Sun in April that he had lied to save himself from the prospect of serving up to 20 years in prison in his drug case. He was soon convicted of a probation violation and sentenced to eight years, but served less and was paroled.

The cause of Brown's death was not reported. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Last week, after spending a month turning away Anne Arundel County prosecutors and lawyers for the man he helped convict, Brown agreed to speak with one of the defense lawyers. Carroll L. McCabe said Brown told her the same thing he had told The Sun. But he refused to talk to prosecutors.

In 1992, Brown's testimony helped convict Brady G. Spicer, 42, of assault with intent to murder Francis "Bones" Denvir, owner of Armadillo's restaurant in Annapolis, on Feb. 22, 1990.

In December, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Baltimore ruled that the trial had been unfair and overturned that conviction, ordering prosecutors to retry Spicer within four months or free him. The ruling is being appealed.

Spicer, who has served about 7 1/2 years of a 30-year prison sentence, maintains that he is innocent.

Messitte said all three witness identifications in the case were weak, but he singled out Brown as probably having changed his story to transform himself into an important witness to win probation.

Last week, with his health failing, Brown told McCabe he wanted to clear his conscience.

"The story about him [Brady G. Spicer] running past the Market House and I was coming out the back door, that was fabricated," Brown told The Sun while he was a patient in an Annapolis-area nursing home.

Spicer expressed sympathy for Brown's family and said he was grateful to them for helping arrange Brown's meeting with McCabe. "It helped me a great deal, emotionally, to know he was trying to get the truth out," he said.

What use Spicer's lawyers can make of Brown's recanting is unclear. The statements alone are not sufficient reason to reopen Spicer's post-conviction hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, and Spicer's attorneys refused to say whether they had taped the interview.

Defense attorney Nancy M. Cohen said she will try to reopen the post-conviction hearing on other grounds. "We are certainly going to use it, but we have to be creative," she said.

She said she was annoyed that Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee did not offer Brown immunity from prosecution to encourage him to speak to prosecutors.

"By failing to offer him immunity, Mr. Weathersbee lost the opportunity to question him and find out what he has to say and then offer Brady [Spicer] some relief," Cohen said.

"Now they have lost a witness if they want to retry the case," Cohen said.

But Weathersbee, expressing sorrow for Brown's family, said he would not have looked to Brown as a witness for a retrial after he recanted. He pointed to the two other witnesses, though neither of them gave strong identifications during the trial.

Weathersbee said he wishes Brown had spoken with his investigator but that it would have made little sense for him to offer Brown immunity. He would have been asking Brown to testify against his previous sworn words before a grand jury and trial jury, he said.

"I'm not sure I could make him talk anyway," Weathersbee said.

The 1990 case went unsolved for months. Then Brown, facing drug charges, told his defense lawyer that a day or so before Denvir was beaten nearly to death with liquor bottles, an acquaintance, "Spicey," had asked him questions about Armadillo's and who counted the money there.

A few days later, he said, "Spicey" thanked him, ostensibly for not telling police.

When Brown talked to prosecutors, he also said he had seen Spicer flee the scene. The disparity was a focus for Messitte and remains one in the federal appeal.

Spicer, who did not testify at his trial, faulted prosecutors for not disclosing the change in Brown's account. At a post-conviction hearing, police testified for Spicer, an investigator from the state's attorney's office expressed doubts, and a new lawyer argued that Spicer did not fit the physical description of Denvir's attacker and was unable to run because of a knee injury. The conviction was upheld.

This year, two judges turned down plea agreements to free Spicer.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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