Attorneys want photos suppressed

Defense says slain girl's autopsy could inflame jury

September 24, 1999|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

CUMBERLAND -- Attorneys for the unemployed store clerk accused of murdering a Carroll County baby sitter continued their efforts here yesterday to suppress evidence, arguing that some autopsy photos should not be shown to the jury when the trial opens early next year.

Yesterday, defense attorneys Jerri Ann Peyton-Braden and Jerome M. Levine told Garrett County Circuit Judge Gary G. Leasure that the photos could unfairly influence a jury.

"They are being used to inflame the jury," Levine said.

Prosecutors disagreed, saying the autopsy photos show very little trauma to 17-year-old Shen Dullea Poehlman and were not inflammatory. The pictures were shown to the judge but not displayed in open court during the second of two days of pretrial motions in the death-penalty murder case against John Albert Miller IV.

"The victim is without substantial struggle marks, strengthening the state's position that she was struck almost immediately upon entering the apartment," said Robin S. Coffin, who with Mickey J. Norman is prosecuting the case.

She also told Leasure yesterday the defense is likely to argue that the Eldersburg girl, who went to Miller's apartment to baby-sit, consented to have sex with Miller.

"It was his [Miller's] position that she consented to be bound and consented to certain sexual acts," Coffin said during court. "He put a plastic bag over her head. When she bit through the bag, he took his belt and strangled her."

Neither side would comment after yesterday's proceedings.

On Wednesday, defense attorneys brought Miller to the stand as their only witness. He testified that his oral and written confession to police should not be part of the case because he felt Baltimore County police officers manipulated him. Officers, called as witnesses by the prosecution, however, testified that Miller confessed voluntarily after they read him his Miranda rights several times.

Miller, 27, was arrested by Baltimore County police officers after Poehlman, a tennis star who planned to attend Florida State University on an academic scholarship, was found dead in her car near Miller's apartment in Reisterstown on July 29, 1998 -- a day after she had agreed to baby-sit for a man who approached her at an apartment complex pool.

Two friends, who were with Poehlman when she was approached, have identified Miller as the man who asked her to baby-sit.

Forty-six motions -- 45 of them from the defense -- have been filed in the case, which was moved to Western Maryland at the defense's request. Leasure said he would rule on the motions within two weeks, and yesterday he granted a defense request for postponing the trial.

Leasure said in court that jury selection would begin in late January, and that he would move the trial from Oakland in Garrett County -- where it was first scheduled -- to Cumberland.

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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