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Inmate gets more prison time for assault on officer

August 19, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

It was unusual for a prison inmate convicted of assaulting a correctional officer to appear in court Wednesday without a lawyer, but it was not unjust, according to Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil.

Talbert Parran, 44, had appeared in court several times without a lawyer since the October 2004 assault and was advised several times to seek counsel, said Veil, who prosecuted Parran.

Parran represented himself Wednesday, although he asked several times for an attorney. A jury took about 20 minutes to return guilty verdicts on charges of false imprisonment, assault, reckless endangerment and weapons charges. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, which will be added to the remainder of a 35-year sentence he is serving for assault and armed robbery.

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According to testimony, Parran constructed a knife from a purple toothbrush handle and three razor blazes and used the weapon to hold a correctional officer against his will at Maryland Correctional Institution, south of Hagerstown, for about 90 minutes.

According to court documents, Parran's case was postponed twice before Wednesday's trial. In May, Parran's first court appearance, he did not have lawyer. He was back in court in June and still did not have a lawyer.

"For a case involving charges that serious, it is unusual to not get an attorney," Veil said.

Parran claimed in court Wednesday that he wrote to the public defender's office and requested a lawyer, but received no response.

Michael Morrisette, district public defender, said he could not speak about Parran's specific case. But he said all inmates are sent a letter asking if they want to be represented by a public defender once Morrisette's office is notified the inmate will appear in court.

"So all the guy has to do is write back and say, 'I want a lawyer,'" Morrisette said.

The inmate fills out an application if he or she wants representation. He said no one is denied a lawyer if they meet financial requirements and are facing charges that could send them to prison.

"We really try to avoid situations like what happened to (Parran)," he said.

Veil said he would not be surprised if Parran appealed the case, but he said he does not expect the verdict to be overturned. In an appeal, Parran could receive a more severe sentence because of his criminal history, Veil said. Veil said Parran has been convicted of three violent crimes.

Parran could receive a lengthier sentence or be denied parole.

"I'm very pleased that the court did take (the case) as seriously as they did on sentencing," Veil said. "We have these prisons that are in our backyard here, and these types of incidents create a climate of fear in the prison."

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