Fingerprint evidence from a 2006 murder case will be admissible in federal court, a U.S. district judge in Baltimore ruled Tuesday, rejecting a decision by a Baltimore County judge that shocked prosecutors and set the defendant free.
Brian Keith Rose, 25, is accused of killing Warren Fleming, a Cingular store owner at Security Square Mall, while trying to steal his car. He was linked to the crime by partial prints left on the Mercedes and a stolen Dodge Intrepid that police say was used by Rose and his accomplices in the January 2006 incident.
But a jury never heard that evidence, because Baltimore County Circuit Judge Susan M. Souder excluded it. In a 32-page decision in 2007, Souder characterized such fingerprint evidence as too unreliable for use in a capital case. The decision caused an uproar in the legal community, which has long relied on such evidence.
After Souder's ruling, county prosecutors asked federal counterparts to take the case. "We couldn't sit by and let an individual for whom there was very damaging evidence out there against him not be admitted into court," said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger.
"The federal courts (and every state court save a single judge in Baltimore County) have universally accepted" such evidence, Assistant U.S. Attorney John F. Purcell Jr. wrote in a motion asking that the prints be admitted in federal court.
Rose's attorney, Stanley J. Reed, acknowledged that the fingerprints are a "significant piece of evidence for the government" and said Tuesday's ruling will "undoubtedly provide a basis for appeal" if Rose is convicted at trial.
Souder could not be reached Tuesday to comment.
- Tricia Bishop