Howard prosecutor says murder verdict is valid

She says trial was fair even though one juror wasn't a U.S. citizen

July 07, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The post-trial discovery that one of the jurors who convicted a 33-year-old Columbia man of murder last month was not a U.S. citizen should not invalidate the verdict because there is no evidence that the juror's presence denied the defendant a "fair and impartial" trial, a Howard County prosecutor said in court papers.

The juror, a resident alien from Nigeria, has said he never intended to deceive anyone and just "missed" references to citizenship on a juror questionnaire. And some courts across the country have ruled that, barring proof of prejudice, a defendant cannot challenge a juror's qualification to serve after a verdict has been returned, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy wrote in court papers filed Friday.

Under Maryland law, a juror must be "constitutionally qualified to vote," and citizenship is a requirement of voter registration.

"The Supreme Court has long recognized that there are no perfect trials," Murphy wrote, countering a defense contention that Marcus D. Owens should be granted a new trial because he was convicted by an illegal jury.

Murphy's 14-page memorandum cites case law dating as far back as the late 19th century and marks the prosecutor's first detailed statement about the case since the jury's verdict was thrown into question June 11 - one day after Owens was convicted of second-degree murder, child abuse and assault in the beating death of his 2-year-old stepson, Kevonte Davis.

Howard Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure is scheduled to hear arguments in the case July 16.

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