Judge expected to rule on challenge to evidence in Spicer retrial in assault

Decision likely to affect prosecution presentation in court next month

February 17, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A ruling expected this morning will determine the direction of next month's high-profile retrial of Brady G. Spicer, accused in the near-fatal beating of a popular Annapolis restaurateur in 1990.

An Anne Arundel County judge will decide whether evidence that is missing from prosecutors' files and what Spicer's lawyers say are other irregularities are enough to bar two eyewitnesses from testifying. The loss of the two witnesses would severely hamper prosecutors in a case that has no physical evidence to tie anyone to the crime.

Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. capped a second day of pretrial hearings yesterday by saying he needed to consider the issues overnight. Neither side expects him to dismiss the case as the defense wants.

The defense has argued that missing evidence -- photos shown to witnesses, a tape-recording of an investigator's questioning of Spicer and a composite sketch of a suspect -- and other unresolved questions unfairly taint what is already a bizarre case.

Prosecutors, acknowledging that the evidence is gone, said Spicer's lawyers did not show they would be handicapped without it and said other errors were harmless.

Spicer, 43, of Annapolis served more than seven years of a 30-year sentence before a federal judge overturned his 1992 conviction in the brutal beating of Francis Denvir in his upstairs office at Armadillo's tavern at Annapolis' City Dock.

Last year, a federal appeals court upheld the ruling, agreeing that prosecutors failed to tell Spicer's lawyer that a man facing drug charges changed his story to become a witness against Spicer in exchange for probation in his own case.

Yesterday, defense lawyer Daryl D. Jones implied that the assistant state's attorney in Spicer's first trial, Steven M. Sindler, may have pointed out Spicer to witnesses against him. Sindler denied doing so.

Saying that county prosecutors should not benefit from problems they caused, defense lawyer Carroll L. McCabe complained that "the evidence was lost on their watch. The 5 percent that was lost is the 5 percent most critical to Mr. Spicer's case." The missing composite sketch, she claimed, did not resemble Spicer, and the original photos shown to witnesses vanished and not all could be reproduced.

Assistant State's Attorney Warren Davis III said the defense could not show that there was anything so wrong with the new photos that they should be kept out of the trial.

He said that whether photos police showed witnesses unfairly pushed one witness to pick out Spicer as the possible attacker was an issue for a jury to decide.

In the six-photo lineup of black men, Spicer was the only one with dark skin. Denvir's attacker was described by witnesses as having dark skin.

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