Inmate's murder trial to start in November

August 04, 2007|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

A retired Anne Arundel County judge will preside at the trial of a 21-year-old man who tried to escape from a courtroom in May at the start of his capital murder trial, Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney said during a hearing yesterday.

Judge Joseph P. Manck will take over for Sweeney, who recused himself from the case and dismissed the jury pool after two potential jurors and two sheriff's deputies suffered minor injuries in his Ellicott City courtroom when defendant Brandon T. Morris was tackled to the ground.

Morris, a Baltimore resident, is accused of killing corrections officer Jeffery A. Wroten during an escape attempt last year from a Hagerstown hospital. Morris was being treated there for self-inflicted wounds while serving a sentence for armed robbery and assault at the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.

Morris' trial is scheduled to begin in early November after Manck presides at another death-penalty case in Anne Arundel County, Sweeney said.

During yesterday's hearing, Washington County prosecutors provided a list of restraints that would ensure safety during the trial.

The list included moving the defense table farther from the jury, having sheriff's deputies escort witnesses to the stand, chaining Morris in shackles and handcuffs, and having him wear a stun belt. If the belt is used, a law enforcement officer would press a button to shock and briefly immobilize Morris should he become unruly.

Defense attorney Arcangelo M. Tuminelli supported use of the stun belt because it would be concealed under Morris' clothes and not be seen by the jury.

Sweeney said that he would provide guidance to Howard County sheriff's deputies on a security plan for the trial. The procedures, however, would be subject to Manck's approval.

Sweeney also warned Morris that he would be removed from his trial should he become disruptive again.

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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