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Hammersla attorneys want life sentence without parole struck

October 24, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Attorneys for Jack L. Hammersla Jr. filed a motion Monday that seeks to strike life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option for their client, who was convicted of Shirley P. Finfrock's Nov. 12, 2003, bludgeoning death, court records show.

Hammersla, 49, is to be sentenced Nov. 21 by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, according to court records.

A Circuit jury convicted Hammersla on Oct. 6 of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder, among lesser charges, in Finfrock's death at her Smithsburg home.

In February, Hammersla was granted a new trial by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which overturned his 2004 conviction for first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder and subsequent sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

In the defense motion filed Monday, Washington County Deputy District Public Defender Mary Riley and Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison said prosecutors did not file enough notice in this trial to get a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

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A section of Maryland criminal law states that a defendant found guilty of first-degree murder may be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole only if "at least 30 days before the trial, the state gave written notice to the defendant of the state's intention to seek a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole."

The motion states the second notice was made "merely two weeks before trial." It was filed Sept. 19 and the trial began Oct. 2.

"It is well-settled in Maryland that when a defendant's trial is completed and his conviction later reversed on appeal, the defendant who successfully challenges his conviction may be retried, under the rationale that the slate is wiped clean and the parties start anew," the motion states.

Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong has said prosecutors filed notice of that sentence within more than 30 days of the first trial and that the second notice filed acted as a reminder.

The sentencing issue was raised by Jerry Joyce, a private attorney who is running against Strong for state's attorney.

In separate motions filed Monday, Hammersla's attorneys said they have not discussed the case and asked that prosecutors involved in the case not talk to the media about the sentencing issue.

Hammersla's attorneys also asked prosecutors to respond to their motions by Friday.

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