Judge denies request for new hearing by man sentenced to life


October 18, 2007|By JULIE BYKOWICZ

A Baltimore circuit judge denied this week an inmate's request for a new post-conviction hearing based on a disgraced firearms identification expert having testified at his murder trial in 1989.

The denial of Jerome Johnson's petition by Circuit Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion might be the first such decision since the revelation that Joseph Kopera -- a former city and state evidence technician -- had embellished his resume.

Kopera killed himself as news of the deception was about to become public.

Johnson was convicted in a July 1988 shooting in a Woodland Avenue bar. A judge sentenced him to life plus 20 years in prison. Since then, Johnson has lost an appeal of his conviction and has filed four post-conviction petitions, all of which were denied, prosecutors said.

FOR THE RECORD - A Crime Watch item in yesterday's editions incorrectly reported the status of James A. Kulbicki's request for a new trial. His request is still pending.

Prosecutors argued at a hearing Oct. 10 that Kopera's testimony was not critical to the conviction of the defendant.

Also, prosecutors said, Johnson was not challenging the substance of Kopera's testimony, only the fact that he had falsified his credentials.

In Baltimore County, attorneys for James A. Kulbicki, who was convicted in 1995 of murder, won a new trial because Kopera had been a witness.

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