Judge allows state to seek execution

May 30, 2007

HAGERSTOWN -- A judge has allowed the state to seek the death penalty for a state prison inmate charged with murdering a correctional officer.

Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney ruled that the de facto moratorium on executions established by a Maryland Court of Appeals decision in December doesn't preclude prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty.

Attorneys for Brandon T. Morris, 21, had argued during a hearing Friday in Ellicott City that unless the state's notice of intent to seek the death penalty were stricken, Morris would be denied due process because he would be tried without knowing what punishment he may face.

He is accused of killing Correctional Officer Jeffery A. Wroten in a Hagerstown hospital in 2006.

The Maryland Court of Appeals imposed a moratorium on executions in December when it ruled in the case of Vernon Evans Jr. that the state's lethal injection procedures hadn't been properly adopted. The protocol must either be approved by a joint legislative committee or exempted by law from such review, the high court ruled. A bill that would have exempted the state from the review was voted down in a House of Delegates committee this year.

Sweeney rejected a defense argument that because Maryland's death sentence is no longer a legal, enforceable sentence, the notice of intent to execute Morris should be stricken.

"The Evans case does not sweep as far as Defendant contends, and there is no indication that the Court of Appeals intended to impose a general moratorium on the bringing of death penalty cases," Sweeney wrote.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin tomorrow in Ellicott City for Morris's trial on charges he fatally shot Wroten with the officer's gun. Wroten was guarding Morris' room at Washington County Hospital on Jan. 26, 2006. Wroten, 44, of Martinsburg, W.Va., worked at the Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown.

Associated Press

Prince George's

: Laurel

Man accused of attacking his mother with sword

A man is accused of attacking his 51-year-old mother with a samurai-style sword yesterday, nearly severing one of her arms, police said.

The man called police shortly after 10 a.m., saying he was suicidal, and asked police to meet him, said Cpl. Debbi Carlson, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman.

He gave no indication he had hurt anyone when police and firefighters met him a few minutes later and took him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, said Mark Brady, a county fire spokesman.

The mother called police about 10:30 a.m. to report that her son had attacked her and run off. "The officers and dispatchers put two and two together," Carlson said.

The woman was taken to a trauma center in Baltimore. Police did not release either person's name. Charges against the son will be determined after the psychiatric evaluation is complete, Brady said.

Anne Arundel

: Annapolis

Bartlett running for 9th term

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett announced yesterday that he would seek a ninth term serving Maryland's sprawling 6th Congressional District, campaign manager Melissa Bartlett said.

The 80-year-old Republican from rural Frederick County will face at least one challenger in the Feb. 12 primary - former Cumberland Mayor Frank Nethken, who announced his candidacy May 23.

Bartlett had previously said he would run again but had not made it official.

Associated Press


: Georgetown

Murder suspect's sanity at issue

A man accused in a two-state shooting rampage that left two dead and four wounded in April 2005 believed his victims were aliens trying to abduct his 5-year-old daughter, the man's attorney said yesterday.

Allison Lamont Norman was in the middle of a psychotic episode, defense attorney Brendan O'Neill told jurors as Norman's trial in the Delaware shootings got under way.

A Maryland prosecutor last year dropped more than 100 additional charges against Norman so that the Delaware case could go forward, citing differences in the way the two states handle insanity plea cases.

"This case is not a whodunit ... the issue in this case is what was Mr. Norman's mental condition, what was his state of mind, when he did these things," O'Neill told the jury.

Norman is accused of killing Jamell Weston, 24, in Delaware and DaVondale M. "Pete" Peters, 28, in Salisbury during a shooting rampage that began on the morning of April 7, 2005.

The attacks started in Laurel, where Weston and another man were shot at the Carvel Gardens apartments, and a third man was shot at a nearby shopping center.

Investigators say that after stealing a car, Norman drove about 13 miles to Salisbury, where Peters and two other people were shot, along with two dogs. One of the Salisbury victims, Carla Green, was left paralyzed.

Associated Press

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