Lawyer, court at odds over retrial bid

Attorney for man accused in '91 killing requests new judge

Howard County

April 24, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The lawyer for a man accused of killing his cousin a decade ago asked the judge assigned to the case to recuse herself yesterday, saying he believes she "feels resentful" of his "aggressive" defense.

New York lawyer Samuel A. Abady made the request during a hearing that had been specially set to give Abady a chance to tell Howard County Circuit Court Judge Lenore R. Gelfman why he should not be removed from the case.

Gelfman set up the hearing after Abady and his client, Adel George Hagez, 53, failed to show for a February court appearance. At the time, Gelfman accused Abady of "playing games."

Yesterday, Abady argued that he had been under the impression, after talking with Gelfman's secretary, that the case would be postponed.

"I feel the court sandbagged me," he said.

Gelfman did not rule yesterday on whether Abady should be allowed to continue to represent Hagez, or on the lawyer's request. She said little during the hearing, noting only that she would take both matters "under advisement" and issue an opinion in writing.

Yesterday's court action was the latest in an unusual, 10-year-old case that has featured one overturned conviction, a push for a retrial and a series of unsuccessful appeals by Abady. The attorney has repeatedly argued that a retrial of his client would constitute double jeopardy, a constitutional protection that bars trying a defendant twice for the same crime.

In 1993, Hagez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, two years after his cousin, Riad S. Hijaz, was found shot to death in the Jessup hotel room in which Hagez's wife was staying. Hagez was released in 1996 after the Court of Special Appeals overturned his conviction, saying that a prosecutor had gone too far in her questioning of an unwilling witness, Hagez's wife.

Since the conviction was overturned, Howard County prosecutors have pushed for a retrial, and Abady has filed a series of appeals. Abady said yesterday that he has drafted an appeal on the double jeopardy issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, but has not filed the appeal. In the meantime, Gelfman ordered Hagez to obtain a local attorney because Abady is out of state.

In legal papers filed yesterday, Abady said Gelfman's decision to require that Hagez retain local counsel places too high an "economic burden" on Hagez, who lives in Norfolk, Va. That order was designed "to retaliate" against his client, Abady wrote.

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