Man convicted in 1981 killing seeks new trial

Reduced term requested in Finksburg shooting

Sentenced to life plus 45 years

He says his lawyer failed to negotiate plea deal

Carroll County

October 21, 2003|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County man sentenced more than two decades ago to life in prison in the shooting death of a 17-year-old Finksburg girl went to court yesterday to ask for a new trial, arguing that his lawyer in the case failed to adequately represent him.

Through his attorney, Cecil L. Redman Jr. also asked that his sentence be reduced, complaining that his lawyer should have been able to negotiate a plea agreement with less prison time. Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. did not immediately rule on the request.

Redman was 16 when he was charged in December 1981 with first-degree murder in the death of Ingrid Bernhard, 17, of Finksburg. According to trial testimony, Redman was armed with a shotgun when he went to the Finksburg home of a girl who had rejected his romantic overtures and had accused him of telephone harassment. That girl hid in her bedroom and was unharmed, but Bernhard was killed with a single blast to the chest.

After a two-week trial in the spring of 1982, Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. found Redman guilty of first-degree murder, daytime housebreaking, attempted murder and malicious destruction of property. In May 1982, he sentenced Redman to life plus 45 years in prison.

His long brown hair tied in a ponytail, Redman, now 38, wore jeans and a gray sweat shirt that overwhelmed his slight physique. He waived his right to testify yesterday, allowing his attorney, Baltimore Assistant Public Defender Howard Margulies, to argue his case.

Margulies said Redman was advised by his trial attorney not to testify on his own behalf and was coerced by the lawyer to waive his right to a jury trial. Margulies also said that Redman's trial attorney did not fight hard enough to persuade the judge to be lenient, given Redman's age and history of psychotic behavior and the presence of a prescription drug in his system.

Carroll County Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore disagreed, pointing to phone-book-thick stacks of transcripts. She said Redman's attorney at trial, Samuel A. Culotta, was consistently aggressive in Redman's defense, adding: "This was a hard-fought battle between the attorneys in this case. Mr. Cullotta fought every step of the way."

Gilmore called as witnesses yesterday Cullotta and Edward M. Ulsch, who prosecuted the original case.

Cullotta took the stand to say that Redman made the decision not to testify on several occasions. Cullotta also said that "despite my most persuasive efforts" repeated attempts to negotiate a reduction in charges failed.

"Ulsch wouldn't budge," Cullotta said. "He said he had a solid case."

Ulsch confirmed Cullotta's version of events.

Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes was Ulsch's colleague as an assistant state's attorney 20 years ago. He recalled the uproar the case caused in the county, which had yet to blossom into a bedroom community.

"Juveniles being involved in a crime of that nature, with that degree of viciousness and brutality, was unheard of," Barnes said. "It was a shocking and tragic event. At that time we had practically half the crime in every category, and this was one of the first very serious cases in which there was a very young defendant."

Charging documents state that on Dec. 7, 1981, Redman rode his bike from his home in the 1800 block of Fawn Way in Finksburg to the home of Regina Marie "Tina" Rodgers a block away. Several witnesses would tell investigators that they saw him carrying a shotgun.

Redman had threatened to rape and kill Rodgers, whom he blamed for being sent to a juvenile detention facility, trial testimony showed. About 3 p.m. the day of the crime, Redman shot out a front picture window to get into the girl's house and then encountered Bernhard.

Bernhard was the daughter of immigrant parents from Germany, and, according to them, wanted to be a state trooper.

The girl told Redman to leave. As Rodgers hid upstairs behind a bedroom dresser, she heard her friend scream and then the sound of a shotgun fired, according to testimony.

Redman shot the bedroom door open and searched the room and her closet but, interrupted by the arrival of another Rodgers friend, fled to nearby woods, where he was found asleep the next morning, testimony showed.

Investigators went to Redman's home and found a calendar book with "Execution Day" written under the date of the shooting and several books on witchcraft; they also noted that shotgun shells were missing.

Redman said he had no memory of the shooting, according to court records. He told police that he had been watching videos that morning and, as part of his routine as an expelled student, fell asleep that afternoon to the sounds of hard rock music blasting in his room.

Greg M. Shipley, now a major and a spokesman for the Maryland State Police, investigated the matter, writing in the charging documents: "[Redman] said that when he was found (arrested) he thought he was a wounded army prisoner in Vietnam. He said that's where his grandfather almost died. He said his grandfather taught him how to use a rifle, however he never shot the rifle. He said he shot a shotgun one time with his father about five years ago."

Days after he was arrested, Redman attempted to hang himself in his jail cell, leaving a suicide note to his family. Gilmore, the deputy state's attorney, said yesterday that Redman would not be eligible for parole for at least 20 years.

Beck said he will review the transcripts and render a written decision on Redman's motion but did not say when.

Sun news researcher Shelia Jackson contributed to this article.

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