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Evidence properly excluded, appeals court rules

February 19, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Testimony from a witness whose memories were enhanced through hypnosis was properly barred from the 1996 murder trial of Lewis William Burral, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled.

Now 33, Burral is serving a 30-year sentence for second-degree murder in the 1989 death of Jeffrey Fiddler.

The state's highest court, which issued its ruling Feb. 12, addressed only the hypnosis issue.

At the trial, the victim's girlfriend, Lisa Wallech, testified she saw a fight between Jeffrey Fiddler's brother, Jimmy, and another man the night of the killing.

But after being hypnotized, Wallech said the fight was actually between Jeffrey Fiddler and the other man - a man never charged in the murder of Jeffrey Fiddler.

Prosecutors objected to the hypnosis testimony and it was barred from the jury's ears.

In a 4-3 decision, the state's highest court ruled that such testimony is inadmissible.

In December 1997, Maryland's second-highest court upheld Burral's conviction on the issue of jurisdiction.

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Burral claimed the Washington County Circuit Court had no jurisdiction because there was insufficient evidence that the crime occurred in Maryland.

A Washington County Circuit Court jury convicted Burral of second-degree murder in March 1996.

Burral had been charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and interstate kidnapping in the Feb. 27, 1989, death of Jeffrey Fiddler.

Fiddler's body was found along an exit ramp off Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania. He had been stabbed to death.

Burral was arrested Sept. 22, 1995, by police in Ohio.

Burral didn't take the stand at his trial and spoke only briefly at his sentencing. He told the Fiddler family he hoped they would one day learn who killed their son.

Burral was the first of four Hagerstown men tried in the Fiddler murder.

Edward Charles Stouffer, now 30, was convicted of felony murder and kidnapping and sentenced to life in prison.

Two other defendants were acquitted, one by a jury and one by a judge.

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