Murder defendant admission permitted

Baltimore County judge to allow remarks to police

Possible death penalty at trial

Surdi reportedly told officer details of killing

July 31, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County Circuit judge ruled in a pretrial hearing yesterday that prosecutors may use statements John K. Surdi made to police admitting that he shot his sister's live-in boyfriend -- and picked the date because it was the anniversary of a murder he had committed.

Judge Robert E. Cadigan ruled that Surdi waived his Miranda rights before he told police that he shot Robert Timlin on Nov. 21.

Surdi, 53, of no known address, is scheduled to be tried on a first-degree murder charge Jan. 13.

He is one of three defendants in the county, and one of four statewide, facing a possible death sentence while a state-funded study on the fairness of Maryland's capital punishment law is being completed.

The study is due to be released in September.

Police say that Surdi pushed his way into his sister's home about 9:30 a.m., went to Timlin's bedroom, hit him with a shotgun to wake him and shot him in the stomach.

Surdi had shared the Loch Raven home with his sister, but was angry at Timlin for ordering him to move out because he used drugs, police said.

Officer Juanika Ballard, a two-year veteran, testified that Surdi admitted to the shooting a few hours later at the Towson precinct.

Surdi signed a waiver of his Miranda rights and told her he awakened Timlin before he shot him "to let him know what was coming to him, to kind of scare him," Ballard testified.

Surdi also told Ballard that he shot Timlin on Nov. 21 because it was the anniversary of the murder he committed in 1979.

"He was going to celebrate, so to speak, by killing Mr. Timlin," Ballard testified.

Surdi was sentenced to 30 years in 1980 after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of a 27-year-old city school teacher Nov. 21, 1979. He was released last year after serving 21 years.

Police initially charged Surdi with attempted murder in the Timlin shooting.

The charge was changed to first-degree murder after Timlin, 44, died from his wounds Dec. 25 at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Detective Kurt Wilhelm testified that Surdi gave a detailed account Dec. 27 of the killing when he was taken to police headquarters in Towson to be charged.

"He basically told us the whole story. I didn't ask him to tell us anything," Wilhelm said. "I was amazed."

Surdi's lawyer, public defender Harun Shabazz, argued that Surdi's confession to Ballard should be inadmissible because he was suffering from heroin withdrawal, was incoherent and was incapable of waiving his Miranda rights.

He also argued that Surdi's statements to Wilhelm were inadmissible because Wilhelm "made small talk" with Surdi and should have given him his Miranda warnings.

But Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst argued that Surdi was coherent when he was arrested and there was no evidence he was suffering from heroin withdrawal.

She also said that Surdi spoke to Wilhelm voluntarily and that Wilhelm was not obligated to give Miranda warnings because he did not interview Surdi.

"The evidence shows that this defendant has wanted to give statements about this crime all along," she said.

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