Prosecution says life without parole still option for Hammersla

October 26, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Jack L. Hammersla Jr. acknowledged before his first trial on first-degree murder charges that prosecutors wanted to send him to prison for life without the possibility of parole if they gained a conviction.

Prosecutors say that notice should get him the same sentence for his second conviction.

On Tuesday, in a response to a defense motion seeking to strike life without parole as a sentencing option, Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell and Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler said they never withdrew their first written notice - signed by Hammersla on May 19, 2004 - before the start of the Oct. 2 retrial.

Since prosecutors never withdrew the notice and because they also sent Hammersla a letter reminding him of their intent, the prosecutors said life without parole should remain a sentencing option, according to the response.

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


A Circuit jury convicted Hammersla on Oct. 6 of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder in Shirley P. Finfrock's Nov. 12, 2003, bludgeoning death at her Smithsburg home.

Hammersla was granted a new trial in February by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Private attorney Jerry Joyce, who is running against State's Attorney Charles Strong in the Nov. 7 general election, raised the sentencing issue, saying prosecutors missed their chance to get the life without parole sentence because they failed to file in time a written notice in advance of the second trial.

Hammersla's defense attorneys, through their motion Monday, concurred.

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