Man put on home detention after court panel decision

7 1/2 years served in beating of tavern manager in Annapolis

October 20, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Carrying a green trash bag containing everything he owns and flashing a broad but tentative smile, Brady G. Spicer walked out of the Anne Arundel County Detention Center yesterday afternoon, savoring his first moments of life out of jail in 7 1/2 years.

"This is really scary. It's been a long time," said Spicer, sighing and examining the $20.37 in his pocket as he waited for a ride to the home of a friend who had agreed to put him up and who had a surprise lasagna dinner waiting. "I am completely lost."

Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. ordered house arrest after a federal appeals panel ruled 2-1 Monday that Spicer did not get a fair trial in 1992 because prosecutors withheld information from the defense. Spicer was convicted of the near-fatal beating of a Annapolis restaurateur and sentenced to 30 years. He has maintained his innocence.

During a hearing yesterday, Spicer, 43, hung his head when Greene decided against bail. He thought prosecutors' efforts to keep him incarcerated had prevailed as they mentioned 15 or so convictions -- all but one a property crime -- and a new witness. But he perked up when Greene put him on house arrest.

A monitor on his left leg tethers him electronically to the jail, and he can leave the Annapolis home of Rosita Parks only for such reasons as psychiatric therapy and visits with his lawyers. He said house arrest "will give me some time to get my head together."

Months ago, Spicer had said he thought he would cry on his release. But yesterday, in the chill, he smiled. "It feels good," he said. "But a lot of my emotions has been stolen. I'll be glad when I get in therapy."

Defense attorney lawyer Carroll L. McCabe said: "He has been on a forced hiatus from life. He starts from scratch."

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling that ordered prosecutors to retry Spicer within four months or free him, and the appellate court stopped the clock at Day 103.

Whether that means prosecutors have 17 days to retry him, or he has 17 days on house arrest, but can be retried, or whether the four months started over again Monday is unclear. Lawyers disagreed yesterday, and Greene made no ruling.

Prosecutors have vowed to appeal or retry Spicer for the February 1990 beating of Francis "Bones" Denvir in his office at Armadillo's restaurant at City Dock.

"Someone approached me and said there is someone" who saw Spicer near Armadillo's the morning of the assault, said Assistant State's Attorney Thomas J. Pryal. Pryal said investigators have not met with the potential witness.

Prosecutors are consulting with the state attorney general's office with an expectation of asking the full 13-member federal appeals bench to hear the case.

The three-judge panel that heard the case circulates opinions it wants to publish -- those it intends to see used as precedent -- among all 13 members to allow for suggestions and internal lobbying for the full court to hear the case.

Observers cautioned against reading too much into the conservative court not taking it upon itself to generate a review, because an appeal by the attorney general's office would force the whole court to review the case. The office has two weeks to appeal.

The panel's opinion hinged on Larry Michael Brown, a felon who traded testimony against Spicer for probation in a drug case. He was one of three witnesses in a case with no physical evidence to tie anyone to the crime.

"This decision comes from a court that has been not at all generous either to habeas petitioners generally or appellants raising claims of prosecutorial misconduct," said Gerald R. Zerkin, an attorney in Richmond, Va.

The judges said Assistant State's Attorney Steven M. Sindler should have told Spicer's lawyers of the discrepancy between what Brown told his lawyer and what Brown told the prosecutor. Brown told his lawyer he did not see Spicer the day of the crime, but conversations he and Spicer had before and afterward led him to think Spicer was the attacker. Brown told prosecutors, a grand jury and trial jury he saw Spicer run from the scene.

Brown recanted this spring and died in July.

Spicer's case was full of strange twists over the years.

Annapolis police and the state's attorney's investigator doubted Spicer's guilt; and at his lawyer's request, Spicer took a lie detector test this year. He passed.

Pub Date: 10/20/99

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