Former handyman goes on trial for 5th time in brutal 1990 killing

November 28, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

Nearly 15 years after Albert Givens was initially suspected of bludgeoning, stabbing and sexually assaulting his friend's mother in her Arnold home, he is on trial for her killing a fifth time.

As the trial of the former handyman began yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, longtime prosecutors said they could not recall another case that had earned the dubious five-time distinction.

"The fifth? Wow," said Byron L. Warnken, a University of Baltimore law professor and expert in criminal law.

He said multiple retrials can be complicated by challenges to witnesses' credibility: The more times a person gives an account, the greater the likelihood that it isn't exactly the same each time.

"A second trial is not unusual because there are mistrials and reversals and hung juries," he said. "A third trial is fairly unusual."

However, Walter James Hovatter was acquitted in his sixth trial in a 1990 killing on the Eastern Shore

The trial of Givens, 52, is expected to take two weeks and be at least as contentious as earlier ones.

The start of the trial yesterday was marked by numerous bench conferences, objections by defense lawyers and exasperated facial expressions on both sides.

In opening remarks, Assistant State's Attorney Pamela K. Alban told the jury that 55-year-old Marlene Kilpatrick opened her door to a "trusted man" only to be attacked.

Givens, she said, "wasn't able to keep his stories straight," and left his DNA on a Coke bottle in the victim's kitchen. The only clean item among Givens' otherwise dirty tools was a 15-inch crescent wrench that matches the wounds of the victim, the prosecutor said.

Assistant Public Defender William M. Davis told the jury that "at least two other people were in the room with Mrs. Kilpatrick" the day she was slain.

Lawyers declined to comment about the case outside the courtroom.

Givens testified in his second trial in 2003 that Jay Kilpatrick, a son of the victim, had admitted to the slaying, a matter that Givens said he kept quiet about because he feared for his life. His testimony netted him a perjury indictment, which prosecutors later dropped.

Givens was charged with first-degree murder in July 1992. He was tried, convicted and, in July 1993, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The conviction was overturned in February 1999; a judge blamed defense lawyers for botching the case.

Givens' second trial - in 2003 - ended with a hung jury.

His third trial, in January 2004, resulted in a conviction. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In April 2005, the verdict was overturned; an appellate court ruled that a key defense expert was wrongly barred from testifying.

Givens' fourth trial, this past April, got as far as the first prosecution witness, the victim's daughter, who testified that Givens had made an unwelcome pass at her mother.

The remark, the first time a witness offered a possible motive for the crime, was ruled inadmissible because it was not something she knew firsthand. The judge declared a mistrial.

Sun reporter Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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