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Court upholds man's murder conviction

August 03, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Court upholds man's murder conviction



The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has affirmed the murder conviction and life-plus-10-years in prison sentence of Michael Dwayne Williams, who was sentenced in January for the shooting death of a Hagerstown man.

In his appeal filed on Jan. 4, Williams raised issues about criminal procedures, jury selection, closing arguments and sentencing which he felt merited reversal of the Washington County Circuit Court jury's decision and Judge Kennedy Boone's sentence.

The court disagreed, according to the 31-page opinion of the state's second highest court in Annapolis.

According to that opinion, Williams asked the court to reverse his conviction because only one black person was in the entire jury pool the day his jury was chosen.

The court ruled there must be proof that race was used as a criteria for striking a juror and not just assumed.

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As to the issue of closing arguments, Williams asked for a mistrial because of Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion's comment to the jurors that it was Williams' request for a jury trial that caused them to spend two days in court.

Boone denied the request at trial and the higher court agreed that the judge acted properly.

"In this case the judge instructed the jury to disregard that comment," according to the higher court which said mistrial is only an option as an extreme sanction.

Boone sentenced Williams to life in prison for first-degree murder plus 10 years for use of a handgun in a crime of violence in the shooting death of 18-year-old Desmar Barnard Artis of Hagerstown in May 1999.

At a two-day trial in November, Williams testified he shot Artis in self-defense. He repeated that contention at his Jan. 4 sentencing.

Witnesses testified that the May 19-20 fatal shooting at Franklin and Locust streets began over unwanted attention Artis had paid to Williams' 17-year-old sister.

Williams contended that Artis also had a gun that night and was the aggressor.

Shots were fired and Artis ran, but mortally wounded, he only got two blocks away. His body was found early May 20 at the rear of 60 East Ave.

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