Judge will allow portion of confession in death trial

Man, 18, is charged in fatal Essex beating

January 25, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

When James John Francis is tried in March on charges of first-degree murder, Baltimore County prosecutors will have a key piece of evidence to use against him.

It isn't the photos the assailants took of the victim as he lay dying by the side of a highway Sept. 17.

It is Francis' confession - or at least part of it.

Francis, 18, Robin Marie Fogle, 18, and Sean Kevin Adams, 19, are charged in the fatal beating of Charles Edward Pall, 42, of the 900 block of Arncliffe Road in Essex.

Pall had spent the day moving his furniture from Halethorpe to his new home in Essex. He had some drinks with a friend and had called his wife to say that their car had broken down and he was walking home, according to relatives.

But he was beaten to death after inadvertently provoking the suspects as they drove by in their car, police said.

Police said that after the attack, the three suspects photographed the victim.

In a written statement to police, Francis acknowledged that they left the scene and then returned and photographed the man, who was breathing but unresponsive.

But Francis said that they came back to check on Pall and that he wasn't sure who took the pictures.

"We came back to see if he was all right. I asked him a couple of times if he was all right. He didn't say anything, so I thought he was either mad or unconscious so we left," Francis wrote.

Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Dever said yesterday that the film was hidden in a soft drink or a wine bottle and that it was too damaged to use as evidence.

But she plans to make sure jurors know that the photos were taken.

Jury selection is scheduled for March 13 in Baltimore County Circuit Court, with opening statements set to start March 15.

At a pretrial hearing yesterday, Judge John F. Fader II ruled that prosecutors may use parts of the statement Francis gave to police after his arrest Sept. 20.

But Fader ruled that much of the 14-page statement is inadmissible because using sections that incriminate Fogle and Adams at their trials would violate their constitutional rights.

County police Detective Peter Grippi testified that Francis agreed to provide a written statement after he was arrested because his mother told him to cooperate.

"He was actually quite calm," Grippi testified.

In the statement, Francis said that on the night of the attack, he got into a car with Adams and Fogle to go to the home of a friend named Scott.

He said that Adams was driving behind Scott's car when they passed Pall near Kenwood High School on Rossville Boulevard.

Adams thought that Pall threw something at their cars, and he pulled over to confront Pall, according to the statement.

Francis wrote that he got out to help Adams and kicked the victim in the side at least three times as Adams punched him.

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