A state appeals court has erased the guilty verdict of a prisoner convicted of sending a death threat to Maryland's former chief judge from the cell where he is serving multiple life terms.
The Court of Special Appeals said Terry P. Dorsey, 33, can have a new trial, this one by jury, because when he did not respond to Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr., he did not waive his right to a jury trial.
Greene had found that Dorsey waived a jury trial, convicted him of threatening a state official and added three years to Dorsey's sentence of three concurrent life terms for sex offenses followed by two concurrent 15-year sentences for burglaries.
Dorsey was found guilty in February of sending a letter, starting with "Dear Satan," to Robert C. Murphy, who had retired in 1996 as the state's chief judge and died last year. The letter, sent in October 1999 to the appeals court building in Annapolis later named for Murphy, was opened by the clerk's office and Murphy never saw it.
In Circuit Court, Dorsey spoke neither to the judge nor to his lawyer, assistant public defender Keith Gross.
"Voluntariness cannot be inferred from the defendant's refusal to answer questions that are essential to the court's determination," Chief Judge of the Court of Special Appeals Joseph Murphy Jr. wrote in the ruling this week.
Murphy said that if during a retrial, Dorsey again does not tell a judge whether he wants a jury trial, "he is to be tried by a jury."
State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said he had not decided whether to retry the case.
Gross declined to comment on the case.