Convict released from jail in error

Handwritten order to hold him was altered

July 04, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

State corrections officers mistakenly released a North Baltimore man from jail a day after he was convicted of attempted murder - an error officials say highlights the perils of a decades-old system in which prisoner release and detention instructions are delivered in handwritten notes.

A city jury convicted Calvin Boswell, 23, of several charges April 21 but found him not guilty of others. He was returned to the Baltimore City Detention Center, where he was supposed to remain until sentencing June 23. Officials didn't realize until then that he had been released in April.

According to court and law enforcement sources, the paper release order on file with the city-run court doesn't match the one on file with the state-run detention center. It's unclear when or why the document - which resembles a receipt - was altered, or by whom. It went through various hands between the court and the jail, but the result was that Boswell was released the day after his conviction.

Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said that multiple errors in the case demonstrate the need for release and commitment records to be transmitted electronically, rather than on paper. Currently, the court's and the detention center's computers aren't compatible, he said.

"We're investing in a case-management system now that in the future will allow our systems to be able to talk to other systems, which could help prevent errors like this one," Binetti said.

State and Baltimore police are still searching for Boswell, of the 520 block of Walker Ave., and state corrections officials are investigating what went wrong.

A document on file with the jail contains a Circuit Court seal and three case numbers - erroneously reporting Boswell as "not guilty" in the attempted murder case. The copy in the court file lacks the seal and has only two case numbers, those of the cases in which he was actually found not guilty.

The courtroom clerk is responsible for completing the release forms, which then pass through multiple hands before an inmate is released.

Yet another error appears to have aided Boswell's release. For unknown reasons, the Corrections Department did not have any paperwork on a fourth case, in which the jury found Boswell guilty of attempted robbery with a deadly weapon.

Boswell was released April 22, the day after he was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault, conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, according to court records and corrections officials. He could face up to 85 years in prison.

"We're investigating what happened," Binetti said. "It involves our system and a city system. Given the nature of the case, it's important that we take as much time as needed to figure out what's happening."

The universe of people who could have changed the document is extensive - court clerks, sheriff's deputies and corrections officers all had access to the release form as well as to another document filled out by a Baltimore sheriff's official that had also been altered.

The sheriff's offce form had instructed corrections officials to continue to hold Boswell without bail and bring him back to court June 23 for sentencing before Circuit Judge Robert B. Kershaw.

The jail's record of that document has two seals and two case numbers, both of which the court's copy lacks, according to court and law enforcement sources. That document, however, did not play a role in Boswell's release.

Boswell was indicted in four cases, all of which stem from the same incident on March 3, 2006, when Boswell's co-defendant, Steven Gibson, was accused of twice shooting Jamie Dicapua during an attempted robbery in the 6000 block of Ready Ave., according to court records.

According to charging documents, Boswell told Dicapua, as his friend was fleeing, that Gibson was "gonna rob ya, get your boy to come back." Boswell then tried to prevent Dicapua from fleeing.

Boswell's attorney, Jerome A. Bivens, did not return a phone message and a page yesterday seeking comment. Gibson's attorney, Maureen O'Leary, also did not return two phone calls.

Assistant State's Attorney Richard Gibson Jr., who prosecuted the case, also did not return a phone message.

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