Flawed conviction

Anne Arundel: Spicer verdict begs a retrial after key witness recants testimony on his death bed.

June 17, 1999

BRADY G. SPICER, in prison since 1992 for the brutal beating of an Annapolis restaurateur, maintains his innocence and alleges he was denied a fair trial. His claims can no longer be dismissed as outlandish.

Recent developments raise questions about a key witness in his trial and a deal cut by prosecutors. A jury convicted Spicer of assault with intent to murder in a 1990 beating that shattered every bone in the face of Francis Denvir, owner of Armadillo's restaurant.

The key witness, Larry Michael Brown, died Tuesday. From his death bed, Brown said he lied when he testified that he saw Spicer fleeing the crime scene. He recanted his testimony in separate interviews with Spicer's defense attorney and Sun reporter Andrea Siegel. Prosecutors had received Brown's account in exchange for reduced charges in a drug case after the assault went unsolved for a year.

Brown's testimony was vital. No physical evidence tied Spicer to the beating. Another eyewitness was improperly allowed to view the court proceeding before testifying; a third identified the attacker as being half a foot shorter than Spicer. The victim did not see his attacker. Police officers do not believe Spicer is guilty and testified on his behalf in post-conviction proceedings. U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte has ordered a new trial, but the Anne Arundel County state's attorney has appealed.

This case recalls the tortured prosecution in Anne Arundel 25 years ago of Guy Gordon Marsh, who was released after serving 14 years for a murder because two informants admitted they lied in placing him at the scene.

Rather than fight a retrial for Spicer, prosecutors should be anxious for one. They should re-examine evidence -- leaving behind Brown's testimony -- and let another jury weigh guilt or innocence. They don't need an appellate court to tell them the current outcome is rife with doubt.

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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