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Grand jury indicts inmate

February 23, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

· Brandon Travon Morris faces 36 counts, including three first-degree murder charges in the death of Jeffery Alan Wroten.

HAGERSTOWN - A Washington County grand jury on Wednesday indicted Brandon Travon Morris on 36 counts, including three first-degree murder charges, in the Jan. 26 shooting death of Roxbury Correctional Institution Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten at Washington County Hospital.

At a press conference Wednesday, Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said prosecutors have not decided whether they will seek the death penalty for Morris.

"Formally, we have not filed" a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, Strong said. "We have not ruled it out."

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Morris, 20, faces three death penalty-eligible charges: One count of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of first-degree felony murder. One felony count alleges he killed Wroten in the course of an escape; the other alleges he killed Wroten in the course of a robbery - the theft of the officer's Division of Correction-issued .38-caliber revolver.

Strong said he anticipates making a formal decision about whether to seek the death penalty within the next few weeks. Morris' trial will be held within 180 days, Strong said. He said he hopes to prosecute Morris here, but it's possible the trial will be moved to another county.

Strong said the Office of the Public Defender has said it would represent Morris, but no formal appearance has been filed on his behalf.

Morris, at the time an inmate at Roxbury, allegedly shot Wroten once in the face at 5:11 a.m. in a fifth-floor room at the hospital, according to the indictment. Wroten, 44, of Martinsburg, W.Va., died Jan. 27 at the hospital.

Morris is being held at Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, commonly known as Supermax, in Baltimore. He was serving an eight-year sentence, imposed in 2003, on assault, robbery and weapons convictions when he was taken to the hospital Jan. 26 for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition.

The indictment accuses Morris "of pointing the loaded .38-caliber pistol at a patient and her visiting mother in a nearby hospital room," Strong said.

The indictment also alleges Morris kidnapped the patient's mother, he said. Morris is accused of attempting to rob the woman of her keys and assaulting her with the revolver, the indictment states.

He also faces a reckless endangerment charge, alleging he waved the loaded revolver at a woman at the hospital.

Morris also is accused of the armed carjacking of an R&D Enterprises taxi in front of the hospital during his alleged escape. The indictment alleges Morris kidnapped the taxi driver and robbed him of cash while eluding police in the taxi.

Morris was captured less than an hour after allegedly fleeing the hospital. A slow-speed police chase north on U.S. 11 ended at the Federal Express Truck Lot at 14527 Industry Drive, north of Hagerstown.

He also faces firearms violations based upon previous convictions and a previous finding of juvenile delinquency that would disqualify him from possessing a handgun.

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