A Severn man convicted of vehicular manslaughter in a 1997 accident will stand trial in another fatal crash that occurred in January, despite the passing of the 180-day speedy trial deadline, a county judge ruled this week.
Kirk R. DeCosmo, 39, is charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of 61-year-old Harry W. Dailey of Ferndale Jan. 11.
According to county police, witnesses told officers that DeCosmo's van was speeding on Furnace Branch Road before it swerved across the center line and into the path of Dailey's pickup truck. Police said they found 2 grams of suspected marijuana in DeCosmo's van after the crash.
Prosecutors feared that the high-profile case might be dismissed because the trial date had been delayed past the speedy-trial deadline without a judge's approval.
The lawyer for DeCosmo, Richard C. Karceski of Baltimore, said that although he agreed to a trial date after the 180-day limit, the pact he made with prosecutors was not valid.
Under state court rules, the request to postpone the trial should have come before a judge, Karceski argued last month before county Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr.
Instead, Karceski and Assistant State's Attorney M. Virginia Miles, following a long-standing practice, pickeda new date and set it through a clerical change.
State law requires that a criminal defendant be tried within 180 days of his or his lawyer's first court appearance in a case, unless the right is waived. Karceski said he did not talk to DeCosmo about waiving the right to a speedy trial and that DeCosmo did not waive it, though 234 days passed between Karceski's telling the court in March that he was representing DeCosmo and the November trial date.
The judge ruled Tuesday that although he saw grounds for dismissing the charges, they were superseded by the consent of DeCosmo's attorney to the new date on his behalf. He said DeCosmo, therefore, could not benefit from the out-of-court procedure.
No trial date has been set.
"We are pleased with the decision," said Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler. "We have in the past followed court rulings that said if the defense counsel agreed to a date beyond the limit, then there can be no lack of speedy trial claim by the defendant. We felt the decision was consistent with the law."
DeCosmo was convicted on drug charges in addition to vehicular manslaughter in the May 1987 death of 44-year-old Freda Kay Seifert. She died when her car was struck from behind by DeCosmo's vehicle, which was traveling at 80 to 100 mph on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, about a mile from the site of the January crash.
DeCosmo was sentenced in 1988 to five years in prison for vehicular homicide in Seifert's death.
To avoid future disputes, Roessler said, State's Attorney Frank R. Weatherbee circulated a memorandum Nov. 15 instructing his assistants to get a judge's approval for all trial postponements beyond 180 days.