Inmate guilty in prison killing

December 07, 2006|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,sun reporter

A prisoner who eviscerated another inmate at a state prison in Jessup and called it self-defense was convicted of first-degree murder yesterday by an Anne Arundel County jury.

Jurors deliberated 14 hours over three days before finding Kenneth Lawrence Higgins, 37, guilty of the January 2005 fatal stabbing of Brian Wilson, 21. The verdict ended a week-long trial that portrayed the Maryland House of Correction Annex as a war zone where inmates say they kill so they are not killed.

The verdict was an important win for prosecutors, who have seen prison cases collapse amid numerous problems. The unsuccessful Republican challenger to incumbent State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee alleged this fall that the failure to win prison cases, especially death-penalty ones, has contributed to prison violence.

Prison "cases are so difficult, so getting a first-degree murder verdict was especially gratifying," Weathersbee said yesterday.

Prosecutors are expected to seek life without the possibility of parole for Higgins.

"Obviously we intend to appeal," said Brian Denton, the Prince George's County public defender who was the lead defense attorney.

Higgins, serving 35 years for Montgomery County crimes that include rape and arson, claimed that Wilson was out to get him. In December 2004, Wilson had stabbed Christopher Witcher, a friend of Higgins, in a holding cell in the Anne Arundel County courthouse.

On Jan. 12, 2005, Higgins had been searched for weapons three times before he pulled a shank from his pants and stabbed Wilson 17 times, tearing through major organs with the last thrust, D. Scott Messersmith, assistant state's attorney, told jurors.

Higgins claimed that when Wilson walked quickly toward Higgins, who was seated on a bench, Higgins saw a glint of metal and thought Wilson had a knife.

Wilson, who was serving four years and a day for drug dealing and assault, had no weapon on him, Messersmith said.

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