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Stallings' murder conviction stands

October 21, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A motion to get convicted murderer Ricky Rinaldo Stallings Jr. a new trial was denied Thursday by Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III, who said the 24-year-old man's defense attorneys did not show him that the verdict was unjust or improper.

Stallings, formerly of Chambersburg, Pa., was convicted by a Circuit Court jury Sept. 22 of first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and related lesser charges in the Feb. 8 shooting death of 34-year-old Mary Elizabeth Williams outside her Maugansville home.

Stallings is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

The motion heard Thursday, filed within 10 days of the verdict by Stallings' attorneys, assistant public defenders Eric Reed and Brian Hutchison, could have been granted "in the interest of justice" if the court was persuaded that the verdict was unjust or improper, Boone said.

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But after hearing arguments from Stallings' attorneys and Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil, Boone, who presided over the trial, said allegations that someone else killed Williams or drove Stallings' Chevrolet Blazer to commit the crime could not compel him to grant the request.

"All I can rule on is what I have," Boone said. "Right now, 'Where's the beef?' I don't have it."

Boone told them that if the people making those allegations were sworn to oath and testified at the Thursday hearing, allowing for him to determine their credibility, he would have had more information to consider in support of their request.

"I don't have anything in front of me. I have allegations. That's it," Boone said. "You elected not to produce those witnesses - that's a strategy."

In the midst of the late-September trial, a woman, Cherry Bridges, came forward with an allegation that a woman named Lauren Bishop pulled the trigger.

While the trial stalled to investigate the claim, Sheriff's Department investigators reported that Bishop denied the allegation.

On Thursday, Reed said Bishop, who since has been interviewed by his office, could have helped them prepare to question their only witness, Williams' estranged husband, L. Richard Williams.

"(Bishop) provided information that she could place a firearm in (Williams') control at the time this incident occurred," Reed said.

Reed and Hutchison alleged during the trial that L. Richard Williams, who is Stallings' uncle, had more motive to kill his wife than his nephew. Williams has not been charged in connection with his wife's death.

Reed said prosecutors believe Bridges and Bishop are not credible, but in a trial, it is up to the jury to decide whether to believe a witness.

Police approached the new information differently because they think the investigation is over, Hutchison alleged.

"We're approaching this from a different angle," he said.

Veil argued that in order for Stallings to get a new trial based on the motion heard Thursday "a very high standard of showing must be made."

"There is no showing in any way that the verdict was unjust or improper," he said.

Veil said the arguments Thursday would fall more in line with a motion for a new trial backed by "newly discovered evidence."

But all that was presented Thursday were "allegations, bald assertions ...," Veil said. "There's no verification for anything."

Reed said, "We're not at that stage" to present newly discovered evidence.

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