Homicide victim's sister backs bills

She wants state law to grant prosecutors broader appeal powers

February 11, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Testifying in a building about two blocks from where her brother was killed, the sister of an Annapolis homicide victim tearfully asked members of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday to back a bill expanding prosecutors' ability to appeal when judges exclude the prosecution's evidence before trial.

"I believe there ought to be a balance here, and I believe you all could find it," said Linda Griffin, whose brother Straughan Lee Griffin, 51, was slain in front of his home in the city's Historic District.

A change in the law "will help someone else down the road, some other victim or some other victim's family," the slain businessman's sister said.

The bill, the last of three proposals introduced in the House in response to the Griffin case, seeks to repeal what prosecutors consider odious provisions in a state law that apply when prosecutors challenge a judge's decision to exclude certain evidence from trial.

Prosecutors want an end to the requirements that automatically free defendants pending the outcome of prosecutors' appeals and that result in dismissed charges if prosecutors lose the appeals.

Griffin was shot in the head and robbed of his car keys Sept. 19, 2002, as he unloaded groceries in front of his home in Annapolis' Historic District. As he lay bleeding in the street, his attackers ran over him with his Jeep as they fled.

Leeander Jerome Blake, 18, and Terrence Tolbert, 21, were charged about a month later. According to police and court records, each incriminated himself and blamed the other in statements to police.

Two Anne Arundel County judges threw out the confessions last year. Prosecutors, left with thin cases, appealed, triggering the release of both Annapolis men. Prosecutors won their appeal in Blake's case, and he was jailed again when he appealed that ruling. Tolbert remains free. The state's highest court heard both cases Monday.

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