Defense attorney claims police illegally searched chemist's car

Man charged with trying to poison Laurel woman

September 05, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for a Frederick chemist accused of using mercury to try to poison a North Laurel woman are trying to bar evidence that Howard County police found in his Honda after his arrest.

Defense attorney Dino Flores told Howard Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. that police violated the constitutional rights of Alan Bruce Chmurny, 57, of the 6200 block White Oak Drive when they searched his car at a Howard County police station several hours after they arrested him in June 2000. Police found in his car a vial of mercury.

Chmurny's trial on assault, reckless endangerment and malicious destruction of property charges began yesterday with selection of seven men and five women to the jury. Opening statements were scheduled to begin today after Kane decides whether to grant Flores' motion to exclude the mercury as evidence. Chmurny faces a separate trial on charges of stalking and harassing Marta Bradley of North Laurel.

Police believe that Chmurny was obsessed with Bradley, a former co-worker, for three years. Prosecutors allege that police found keys to Bradley's and her family's cars, maps to their house and garbage taken from their property during a search of Chmurny's home the day he was arrested.

Bradley's Ford Taurus was declared a total loss after she found a silvery liquid inside on April 16, 2000, and police later determined that mercury had been poured in the car's air ducts.

She "lives her life under a very dark shadow," according to a letter from her lawyer, Steven B. Vinick. Prosecutors said mercury is toxic could have been lethal over time.

Yesterday, Flores argued that Howard police failed to properly execute a search warrant for Chmurny's car because it authorized only Frederick County officers to search the vehicle.

Instead of arresting him as he emerged from his home and waiting for Frederick officers to arrive, Howard detectives allowed him to drive to Howard County, where they stopped him and impounded the car.

"They rolled the dice. They made a judgment call and it was the wrong call," Flores said.

But Assistant State's Attorney Jim Dietrich argued that the police acted within the law -- first because officers are allowed to search a vehicle without a warrant as part of an arrest, and second because the car was stopped in Howard County, where Frederick officers would have no jurisdiction.

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