Death penalty won't be sought in killing near State House

Arundel prosecutors say `critical element' missing

March 06, 2003|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County prosecutors will not seek the death penalty this spring for an Annapolis man accused in a high-profile fatal shooting in September of a businessman in the city's historic district.

Prosecutors said yesterday that they would seek life without the possibility of parole for Terrence Tolbert, 20, the elder of the two Robinwood public housing residents charged in the killing of Straughan Lee Griffin a short walk from the State House on Sept. 19.

They recently filed a court notice seeking the same for Leeander Jerome Blake, 17, who is not eligible for the death penalty because he is a juvenile.

The decision regarding Tolbert was not unexpected. Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office, said she would not elaborate on why prosecutors made the decision, saying only that "a critical element in seeking the death penalty would be missing."

In a death penalty case, prosecutors must show who committed the killing because only that person, and not an accomplice, can be sentenced to execution. In this case, Tolbert and Blake have blamed each other for the killing, according to charging documents and sources close to the investigation.

"The evidence, I think, is going to come out that my client did not pull the trigger, nor was he the driver of the vehicle," said Kenneth W. Ravenell, Blake's lawyer. "I believe that while the prosecution may not be sure, I think they are aware evidence certainly leans in that direction."

Mark Van Bavel, Tolbert's lawyer, said his client was not involved in the killing.

Virginia Griffin, the victim's mother, said her family is "ambiguous" about the death penalty and is not pressing for it.

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