Defense says Morris pleads not guilty

March 02, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD


Three public defenders entered a plea of not guilty Wednesday on behalf of an inmate indicted in the January shooting death of a Roxbury Correctional Institution officer, according to court records.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin July 31 for inmate Brandon Travon Morris, 20, who was indicted Feb. 22 by a Washington County grand jury on 36 counts, including three first-degree murder charges, in Roxbury Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten's Jan. 27 death, court records show.

Morris, who is being held at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, commonly known as Supermax, in Baltimore, faces a maximum penalty of death if convicted of any of the three first-degree murder charges.


District Public Defender Michael R. Morrissette and Washington County Assistant Public Defenders Eric A. Reed and D. Benson Thompson III entered their appearances Wednesday on Morris' behalf, according to court documents.

Morris is accused of shooting Wroten, 44, once in the face on Jan. 26 with Wroten's Maryland Division of Correction issued .38-caliber revolver at Washington County Hospital. Wroten was guarding Morris, who was at the time a Roxbury inmate, in a fifth-floor hospital room when he was shot, reportedly at 5:11 a.m. Wroten died Jan. 27 at the hospital.

Wroten, who lived in Martinsburg, W.Va., was a four-year Maryland Division of Correction veteran and father of five.

The three death penalty-eligible charges Morris faces are 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 Wroten's service revolver.

According to Maryland law, the death penalty may be considered for a first-degree murder conviction if prosecutors issue in writing their intent to seek the death penalty and other required information at least 30 days before trial.

If that written request is made, either the prosecutors or defense attorneys may suggest that the defendant cannot receive a fair and impartial trial in the county from which the charges originated and request it be moved to another county, according to Maryland law.

Strong has said he will not ask that the trial be moved.

As it stands now, the trial is scheduled to last at least five days at Washington County Courthouse, Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, the court's administrative judge, ordered Wednesday.

Morris 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 Herald-Mail has reported.

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.

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