Death row inmate seeks new trial in 1983 murders

Evans, 54, says evidence wasn't turned over in motel clerks' killings

March 05, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for death row inmate Vernon Lee Evans Jr. argued before the Maryland Court of Appeals yesterday that their client deserves a new trial because prosecutors did not turn over key evidence in the 1983 murder of two motel clerks in Pikesville.

But an assistant attorney general countered that defense attorneys have always had access to the witnesses' statements they now call "newly discovered" information. Besides, nothing in those statements contradicts the evidence that Evans, working for Baltimore drug lord Anthony Grandison Sr., shot the clerks, said Assistant Attorney General Annabelle L. Lisic.

"The evidence is overwhelming that Evans fired that weapon," she told the appeals court judges.

Defense attorneys say the witness statements show that another man shot the clerks, David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy, while Evans was the courier for the gun.

Yesterday was at least the sixth time Evans, 54, has appealed to the state's highest court, according to arguments yesterday. The judges peppered attorney A. Stephen Hut Jr. with pointed legal questions.

But Hut said he had expected the interrogation.

"Nothing surprised me at all," he said after the arguments. He said he hoped his responses had convinced the judges of the merits of his client's case.

Evans was convicted in 1984 of being the hit man in a murder-for-hire scheme revolving around a federal drug case. Prosecutors said Grandison, an inmate who was about to stand trial on federal drug charges, hired Evans to kill two witnesses expected to testify against him.

The witnesses -- Piechowicz and his wife, Cheryl -- worked at the Warren House Motel in Pikesville.

On April 28, 1983, prosecutors say, Evans went into the lobby of that motel and, using a MAC-11 machine gun, shot 19 bullets at the couple working behind the counter. He did not realize that Cheryl's sister, Susan Kennedy, was working for her that day, testimony showed.

Kennedy and David Piechowicz died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Evans was convicted in federal court of witness tampering and civil rights violations, and sentenced to two life terms. He was also convicted in state court and sentenced to death.

Grandison also received the death penalty. He remains on death row.

For Evans to get a new trial, the court will have to find that the witness statements were unavailable to defense attorneys in 1983, and that if they had been available, they could have affected the outcome of the trial.

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