Convictions overturned in killings of two deputies

Appeals court finds flaws in questioning of jurors

September 08, 2005|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Maryland's second-highest court overturned yesterday the murder convictions of a man who maintained that he was mentally ill when he killed two Prince George's County deputy sheriffs in 2002 as they sought to take him from his parents' Adelphi home for a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

The Court of Special Appeals said the questioning of potential jurors to determine if they would be biased against James R. Logan was so flawed that it was not valid.

A Prince George's County judge should have allowed potential jurors to be questioned more fully about mental illness and the insanity defense because Logan was using such a defense at his trial, the Court of Special Appeals ruled. Logan, then 23, admitted that he fatally shot Deputies Elizabeth L. Magruder and James V. Arnaud, but asked jurors to find that he was not criminally responsible because of psychiatric problems.

More questioning about the possible influence of pretrial publicity should have taken place as well, the court said.

But although the appellate court found that Prince George's County police were deceptive in prodding Logan to confess, it ruled that was a harmless error given Logan's defense.

Defense lawyer Fred Warren Bennett said that he was pleased with the ruling, adding that he will try to prevent Logan's confession from being admitted as evidence at a retrial.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey and Kathryn Grill Graeff, chief of criminal appeals for the state attorney general's office, said they are considering whether to ask the state's highest court to overturn the ruling. Ivey said if the Court of Appeals does not hear the case, he will retry it.

Logan was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to 100 years.

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