High court hears appeals in Annapolis murder case

February 10, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for two men accused in a fatal carjacking in Annapolis' Historic District asked Maryland's highest court yesterday to prevent their alleged confessions from being used against them in court.

Prosecutors must win at the Court of Appeals in order to take Leeander Jerome Blake and Terrence Tolbert to trial on charges that they killed Straughan Lee Griffin outside his home in September 2002. By law, the cases must be dismissed if the defense succeeds.

Defense lawyers say that Blake and Tolbert were illegally questioned when they reportedly implicated each other in the slaying of the 51-year-old businessman.

Blake's lawyer, Kenneth W. Ravenell, argued that Annapolis police Officer Curtis Reese violated his client's rights by telling him, "I bet you want to talk now, huh?" after the teen-ager had invoked his rights to remain silent and talk to a lawyer.

Ravenell asked the high court to consider the setting - "a 17-year-old in a cold cell in his underwear" - and the paperwork presented to Blake - which said he'd been charged with murder and which erroneously said the death penalty was a possibility.

But Assistant Attorney General Annabelle L. Lisic disagreed. She said the lead detective in the case, William Johns, immediately and loudly reprimanded Reese in front of Blake, which negated the impact of Reese's remark.

Prosecutors appealed pretrial rulings by Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judges that threw out the alleged confessions.

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