Convicted killer seeks new trial

Defense for Brill was inadequate, his new lawyer says

Columbia

April 02, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Scott Jory Brill, one of two men convicted of killing 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason, should be granted a new trial because his trial lawyer failed to vigorously contradict some of the most damaging testimony against him - the opinions of the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, his new lawyer argued in court papers filed yesterday.

Attorney Joseph Murtha, who was hired by Brill two weeks ago, notes that his client's trial lawyer, Warren A. Brown, did not hire a forensic pathologist or other expert to rebut the findings of deputy state medical examiner Jack Titus and asked Titus, whose opinions were "inconsistent," only seven questions on cross-examination during the November trial.

Titus was the "most vital witness" for prosecutors, Murtha wrote, because the medical examiner provided the forensic match to Brill's incriminating statements.

Brill, 19, of the 5700 block of Sweetwind Place in Columbia, was convicted of first-degree murder in October. He is facing a maximum penalty of life without the possibility of parole.

Ashley's body was found in woods behind a Columbia Pizza Hut on Nov. 3, 2000. She had been strangled and stabbed 34 times, according to trial testimony.

Brill told investigators that he choked Ashley but "not all the way" and stabbed her once in the stomach "after she was dead," according to transcripts of the interviews.

But Titus testified at trial both strangulation and stabbing caused the Long Reach girl's death and that the abdominal wounds were inflicted while she was alive.

Experts hired by Scott Brill's mother, Janet Brill, after the conviction concluded that Ashley "did not die from strangulation" and that there are abdominal wounds that were "consistent with wounds inflicted post mortem," Murtha said.

Murtha noted in the court filing that Titus told detectives at the time of the autopsy that the "injuries sustained from the strangulation were not significant enough to have caused the death."

If Brown had provided "effective representation," Brill might have been acquitted, Murtha wrote.

But Brown, who said he believes his representation of Brill was "stellar," said the argument is "ridiculous," and that the facts surrounding the case supported any "number of different theories."

Brill told police that he was involved in the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death, Brown said. The question was "what degree of involvement was attributed" to Brill, he said.

"If we had proven that which [Murtha] is talking about, that would not have necessarily walked [Brill] out the door and that's because of participation," Brown said.

No date had been set by late yesterday for sentencing or arguments before Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney on Murtha's motion for a new trial.

Frederick James Moore, 22, of the 6600 block of Eberle Drive in Baltimore was also convicted of first-degree murder in the case after a January trial. His sentencing is scheduled for April 11.

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