Murder charge not an option in 1974 case

Man died in July

statute of limitations has passed

September 15, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The July death of a Baltimore man who was shot in 1974 has been ruled a homicide, but no one can be charged with murder in the case, according to a legal expert.

State law at the time of the shooting set strict limits on when homicide charges could be filed, said Byron Warnken, a law professor at the University of Baltimore.

Frank Phillips of the 100 block of S. Gilmore St. was shot in the 1500 block of Vine St. in July 1974, suffering massive injuries and eventually becoming a paraplegic, police said.

On July 24, he died at age 53; the medical examiner ruled Thursday that Phillips' death was a homicide by shooting, police said.

Warnken said murder charges cannot be filed in the case because Phillips died more than a year and a day after the shooting. Under Maryland law in 1974, that was the statute of limitations for homicide. The law was changed in 1996 and now place no time limit on filing homicide charges, Warnken said.

Lesser felony charges could be a possibility in the case because such crimes do not have statutes of limitations, he said.

Agent Martin Bartness, a police spokesman, referred all questions about potential charges to city prosecutors.

Officials with the state's attorney's office could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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