Maryland's highest court issued a ruling yesterday that restores the death sentence of a man convicted in the killings of an elderly Rosedale couple.
The decision by the Court of Appeals sends Lawrence M. Borchardt Sr. back to death row nearly 20 months after an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge found that an attorney who defended the convicted killer at a capital sentencing hearing in 2000 provided ineffective counsel. The judge granted Borchardt a new sentencing hearing.
The high court found, however, that the actions taken by the defense attorney amounted to a conscious trial strategy rather than errors or ineffective representation.
"Simply because counsel's strategy did not succeed, and Borchardt was sentenced to death, it does not follow that defense counsel were ineffective," Judge Irma S. Raker wrote in the majority opinion.
The court's decision comes three weeks after the judges unanimously ordered a halt to executions in the state, ruling that Maryland's procedures for putting prisoners to death were never submitted for public review.
The order - issued in the case of death row inmate Vernon L. Evans Jr. - has led to speculation that the ruling could lead to an indefinite freeze on executions in Maryland.
Borchardt, 55, of Rosedale, was convicted of stabbing Joseph and Bernice Ohler in their Rosedale home on Thanksgiving Day 1998. The couple had twice given money to Borchardt, a heroin addict who was going door to door claiming that his wife needed cancer treatments. He killed the couple when they told him they didn't have any more money to give.
The case was moved from Baltimore County to Anne Arundel County after Borchardt's lawyers requested a venue change. An Anne Arundel jury convicted Borchardt and sentenced him to death for the killings.
Attorneys for Borchardt appealed the death sentence. Anne Arundel Judge Pamela L. North ruled in May 2005 that a lawyer who represented Borchardt at his 2000 sentencing had erred in not calling certain witnesses, striking an agreement with prosecutors to limit another witness's testimony and by failing to solicit evidence about the unlikelihood that Borchardt posed a future threat.
S. Ann Brobst, an assistant Baltimore County state's attorney, expressed satisfaction yesterday that the appellate court agreed with prosecutors' arguments in the case, saying Borchardt was "capably represented by two very experienced attorneys, and the evidence against him was just overwhelming."
Chief Judge Robert M. Bell issued a dissenting opinion in the case, which was partially joined by judges Clayton Greene Jr. and Lynne A. Battaglia.
City man charged in woman's killing
A 44-year-old Baltimore man was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the choking death of a Virginia woman whose body was found in a wooded area by bicyclists, authorities said.
Wayne Baboolal of the 7000 block of Surrey Drive was charged with killing Washeeda Ali Siahpoush, 43, of Chantilly, Va., after allegedly confessing to police, according to charging documents.
Court records showed that Baboolal confessed to killing Siahpoush after the two got into an argument. In a video-recorded confession, Baboolal told police that Siahpoush slapped and scratched his face Jan. 4, court papers stated.
The two then left his home in his Ford Explorer, and she asked to be taken to her car, parked in the 7200 block of Valley Country Court in the Pikesville area, police said. After a second confrontation, Baboolal grabbed Siahpoush's throat and choked her to death, police said.
He drove her to Caves Road and Park Heights Avenue and dumped her body in a wooded area, court records showed. He removed her watch and ring and drove to the Pikesville area, where he placed the jewelry on the floor of her car and put her keys in the ignition, records stated.
Two bicyclists found Siahpoush's body about 11:20 a.m. Jan. 6 near the 2500 block of Caves Road.
Friends in the Baltimore area later identified Siahpoush, who lived in Virginia with her husband and two daughters, police said.
Baboolal is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center after being denied bail yesterday.