Death-penalty trial opens in killing of correctional officer

Prisoner, already serving life plus 15 years, accused in 2006 crime that led to closing House of Correction

January 11, 2012|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Prosecutors told an Anne Arundel County jury Wednesday that two prisoners fatally stabbed a correctional officer in a now-closed state prison because he was a strict authority who was an "obstacle they had to remove."

Defense lawyers for one of the accused prisoners, Lee Edward Stephens, 32, countered that he did not kill Cpl. David McGuinn in a 2006 incident at the Maryland House of Correction.

Security at the Anne Arundel County Court House will be exceptionally tight for the trial, which began Wednesday and is expected to last seven weeks. The trial falls under 2009 changes to the state's death penalty laws, which limit when prosecutors can seek the death penalty. Prosecutors say they have DNA, one of the requirements. The defense has countered that the crime scene was so bloody that a number of prisoners had the victim's blood on them.

Already serving a sentence of life plus 15 years for an unrelated murder, Stephens is one of two prisoners accused in the fatal stabbing as McGuinn was on the catwalk along a tier of cells. McGuinn's death was one of the chief reasons the prison that opened in 1879 was shut in 2007. No trial date is set for the second prisoner, whose mental fitness to stand trial is in question.

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