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Judge postpones Morris trial

May 06, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

The trial for a Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate accused of killing an RCI officer at Washington County Hospital in January was ordered postponed by nearly three months Friday by a Washington County Circuit Court judge.

According to court records, Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III ordered Friday that Brandon Travon Morris' previously scheduled July 31 trial be postponed for "good cause" until Oct. 23. The trial had been scheduled to last at least five days.

Morris, 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of any of three first-degree murder charges contained in a 36-count indictment handed up by a Washington County grand jury Feb. 22.

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Roxbury Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten pleaded for his life before Morris allegedly turned Wroten's .38-caliber service revolver on the corrections veteran and shot him once in the head on Jan. 26, court documents state. Wroten, 44, was guarding Morris, allegedly hospitalized for a self-inflicted stab wound, in a fifth-floor hospital room when he was shot about 5 a.m.

Wroten, a four-year Maryland Division of Correction veteran and father of five, died Jan. 27 at the hospital.

Morris, who was serving an eight-year sentence at Roxbury for assault and weapons convictions at the time of the shooting, has pleaded not guilty to the counts. He is being held at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, commonly known as Supermax, in Baltimore.

According to Wright's order, a hearing on any pretrial motions related to the guilt or innocence phase of Morris' trial will be held July 20. The deadline for attorneys to file death-penalty related motions was set for July 28, and a hearing to consider any such motions was set for Sept. 20, court documents state.

Since Morris faces the death penalty if convicted, he has the automatic right to have his trial moved to another state jurisdiction for trial. No motion had been filed on his behalf by Friday seeking that removal.

State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. has said he will not seek to have the case tried outside Washington County Courthouse.

Morris' attorneys, District Public Defender Michael R. Morrissette and Washington County Assistant Public Defender Eric A. Reed, had argued in a motion for a trial continuance that they needed 18 months to investigate aspects of Morris' history that would help them argue against the death penalty in their client's case.

The appearance of a third public defender on Morris' behalf has been removed.

Strong, in his motion opposing Morris' attorneys' request, said that the prosecution has shared evidence with the defense in a timely manner, and is "completely prepared to try this matter on July 31."

In that motion, Strong said that the trial "will be a grueling experience for the survivors of murdered Officer Wroten, and each continuance and delay causes great anxiety and unnecessary hardship on these survivors ..."

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