Jessamy takes partial blame for release of homicide suspect

Man, 21, was erroneously let go for 24 hours after hearing on lesser charge

March 01, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy accepted partial blame yesterday for a mix-up that resulted in the erroneous release of -- and day of freedom for -- a man indicted on a first-degree murder charge.

John Edward Gregory, 21, of the 1600 block of Eutaw Place was freed Tuesday after an assistant state's attorney erroneously shelved murder and other charges against him. Prosecutors generally "stet" charges when they lack sufficient evidence, and the cases are rarely tried.

Gregory is charged in the shootings Dec. 20 of Anthony Bryant and Jose Coreas in West Baltimore, which resulted in Bryant's death. He had been held without bail since Jan. 31 and was indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and other charges Feb. 14.

But on Tuesday, when Gregory appeared before Judge Emmanuel Brown in an unrelated domestic violence case, he was let go. Baltimore police arrested him without incident near his home about 24 hours later.

The error highlights continuing problems in the state's attorney's office, which have included the failure to turn over exculpatory evidence and the loss of several high-profile murder cases.

"The state's attorney's office did enter a stet on a murder charge scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday," Jessamy said. "This should not have occurred and triggered a series of events that led to John Gregory's release. This case should have raised questions, not only from our prosecutorial staff, but also our criminal justice partners."

That's as close as Jessamy came to saying another department -- possibly the city's detention center -- also was to blame. She praised Baltimore police, particularly the Warrant Apprehension Task Force, for quickly rearresting Gregory.

Baltimore police homicide Detective Carol Opher, lead investigator in the Bryant killing, said she was shocked that Gregory was released.

So was his attorney, Donald Daneman, who notified court officials after Gregory showed up at his office Tuesday.

Jessamy declined to name the prosecutor who handled Gregory's case, saying only that it wasn't a senior person and "appropriate action would be taken."

She said Gregory appeared in the city's domestic violence court Tuesday and that the murder charge was mistakenly lumped with the assault charges.

"This case then was called with the other domestic violence cases that had been prepared by the prosecutor, [and] when the murder case was called, no witnesses appeared, no detective came forward [and] a stet was entered by the prosecutor," she said.

Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris was understanding about Gregory's accidental release.

"It shouldn't happen, but it does happen," Norris said. "They process a whole lot of prisoners every year. Once in a while, mistakes happen. It's not that big a deal."

Sun staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

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