Appellate court says delays did not deny defendant his rights

State may charge him again in robbery of liquor store owners

July 09, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled yesterday that Michael R. Ruben -- a suspected armed robber who was among the Baltimore defendants ordered released for lack of a speedy trial -- was not denied his rights in spite of multiple postponements of his case.

The decision clears the way for Ruben -- charged with attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery in October 1997 -- to be charged again.

The Baltimore state's attorney's office, which learned of the ruling last night, said it will soon decide -- perhaps today -- whether to re-charge Ruben, who was accused of firing a shotgun at husband-and-wife liquor store owners in a robbery that netted $3.

Last night, Haven H. Kodeck, deputy Baltimore state's attorney, said his office would have no decision until this morning.

"We're glad it was reversed," said Kodeck, noting that the court's decision pointed out that the majority of delays in the Ruben case came at the request of the defense. "We have to contend with the absence of [key evidence destroyed during the delays] to see if this case is still viable."

It is unclear whether the reversal of Ruben's case could give prosecutors a basis to argue for the resurrection of five similar Baltimore cases in which charges were dismissed for lack of speedy trial.

Ruben's case had been postponed at least five times last year. But the key to city Circuit Judge John N. Prevas' decision to dismiss the charges was that spent 16-gauge shotgun shells found on Woodland Avenue after the robbery were inadvertently destroyed by police.

In the Court of Special Appeals ruling -- by Judges Glenn T. Harrell, James P. Salmon and James A. Eyler with the opinion written by Eyler -- destruction of the shotgun shells was considered a "minimal" factor.

As to Ruben's postponements, the court ruled that "the delay of nearly 11 months from arrest to trial was [constitutional], albeit barely so."

In part, the court reached that decision because 77 days of the delays were at the request of Ruben's defense attorney while the state was responsible for 46 days. A key factor in the rendering was that the defense was granted 77 days of delay before the shotgun shells were destroyed, according to the decision.

"Consequently," Eyler wrote, "we conclude that the reasons for the delay in this case narrowly favor" the city state's attorney.

In December, the same court erased a sex-crime conviction against a man, finding the state's nine postponements over 16 months to be excessive, and upheld the dismissal of charges against four murder suspects.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.