Md. court rejects appeal by man put on death row for 2 murders

July 24, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Court of Appeals rejected yesterday an appeal by convicted killer Vernon Lee Evans Jr. to vacate his death sentence.

Evans contended in his appeal that new evidence cast doubt on whether he was the triggerman in the 1983 contract murders of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy in a Baltimore County motel, making him ineligible for the death penalty.

He also argued that his sentence was invalid because the trial judge applied to his case an amendment to the state's death penalty statute that took effect after the date of the murders.

The court, in an opinion written by Judge John C. Eldridge, rejected both arguments.

In his original trial, eyewitness testimony placed Evans in the motel lobby before the shootings. Other witnesses testified that after the shootings, he went to his car and handed a smoking gun to an associate.

In this appeal, Evans' ninth since he was sentenced, the defendant argued that newly discovered evidence provided varying physical descriptions of the man that witnesses saw in the motel lobby. His attorneys argued that Evans was a middleman and that another associate pulled the trigger.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the new theory proffered by Evans' attorneys is "farfetched" and "fails to create a substantial possibility that a jury would find that Evans was not the `triggerman.'"

Evans also argued that his sentence was invalid because the juries were given guidelines for mitigating factors that became part of state law after the murders were committed.

However, the court ruled that the change, which removed intoxication from a list of mitigating factors spelled out in Maryland law, was immaterial because of a clause in both the old and new standards that allowed jurors to decide for themselves what constitutes a mitigating factor.

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