Charges formally end in fatal carjacking


December 21, 2005|By ANDREA F. SIEGEL

As Leeander Jerome Blake sat outside a courtroom yesterday, an Anne Arundel County judge formally ended the carjacking-murder prosecution against him in one of the region's high-profile recent slayings - a case that the state's top court said Annapolis police botched and that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive.

Circuit Judge Pamela L. North, whose ruling two years ago threw out Blake's statements to police and began a series of doomed appeals by prosecutors, said that by law, she had to dismiss the charges.

Blake faced nine counts in indictments that accused him of first-degree murder and carjacking in the September 2002 killing of Annapolis businessman Straughan Lee Griffin, who was shot in the head and then run over by the attackers in his sport utility vehicle as they fled from the state capital's Historic District.

"The court has no option but to dismiss both of those cases," North said in a proceeding that lasted barely a minute.

Blake missed it. On a bench outside the courtroom, he said he was waiting for his lawyer. But his lawyers had waived his and their appearance. Blake declined to comment.

"The real disappointment was when we got the Supreme Court ruling. This was inevitable," Assistant State's Attorney Frederick Paone said afterward.

Under a state law since changed because of this case, if prosecutors lose a pretrial appeal, the case must be dismissed.

The U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore is considering whether to prosecute Blake in federal court.

Also, Blake is due back in Anne Arundel courts next month to face charges of assaulting a former girlfriend.

In statements to police, Blake, then 17, blamed Griffin's death on his friend Terrence Tolbert, then 19. Convicted of first-degree murder and other charges, Tolbert is serving a sentence of life without parole plus 30 years.

North said police violated Blake's rights after his Oct. 26, 2002, arrest. Though he had told officers that he wanted a lawyer and questioning was to stop, another officer taunted him. Blake soon gave statements.

Prosecutors pursued appeals to the Supreme Court, which heard the case Nov. 1 and dismissed it without explanation two weeks later.

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