Defense asks for delay in slaying case

May 03, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM


Attorneys for an inmate accused of killing a correctional officer at Washington County Hospital in January filed a motion April 25 to postpone his trial for 18 months.

Brandon Morris, 20, was indicted Feb. 22 by a Washington County grand jury on 36 counts, including three first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Jeffery Alan Wroten. Morris' trial was scheduled to begin July 31 and last at least five days.

Washington County State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. filed a response to the defense motion Monday.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III has both motions, according to a court clerk, and could make a decision any day.


In its request, the defense states that the trial date was selected before the state filed a notice to seek the death penalty in the case.

The State's Attorney says the prosecution is prepared to try the case July 31, and a continuance would be unfair to survivors of Wroten.

Wroten was shot while guarding Morris, who prison officials said was admitted to the hospital with a "medical condition."

Morris has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a six-page document signed by Morris, the defense claims that the state has forwarded about 800 pages of documents to the defense, along with photographs, videos and other items. The state also indicated it will conduct DNA testing of items allegedly recovered from the crime scene, documents state.

The results of the DNA testing will not be available until after June 15, according to the defense. The state said the results will be available before June 15.

The state said in a four-page response that Morris might wish to delay the trial as long as possible due to the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.

The defense listed American Bar Association guidelines and a United States Supreme Court ruling in Wiggins v. Smith in its argument for an 18-month continuance. Citing Bar Association guidelines, the defense stated that in a death penalty case, counsel should investigate potential sources of information relating to the offense, the defendant's mental state and any aggravating factors.

"The defendant's motion is devoid of a single concrete fact (except for the incorrect reference to DNA evidence availability) in support of its motion for continuance, which consists entirely of bald assertions," the state said in the document.

The state's attorney also said the defense has copies of Morris' criminal history, including his juvenile record, work, family and social history information. The state said the motion for a continuance appeared to be a delay tactic.

The state objected to any continuance longer than 90 to 120 days.

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