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Hagerstown man guilty of murder

May 04, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - After less than two hours of deliberations Thursday, a Washington County Circuit Court jury found a Hagerstown man guilty of first-degree murder in an April 13, 2006, stabbing on Bethune Avenue.

Marshall Adams, 27, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison after his conviction in the death of Leo Anthony Morris, 31, who was stabbed and cut 32 times, according to evidence and testimony presented during the three-day trial.

Adams faced charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter. Because the jury found Adams guilty of first-degree murder, it did not deliberate on the lesser charges.

After the verdict was read, Adams shook his head slightly and watched as the jury was polled.

Morris' family members hugged assistant state's attorneys Gina Cirincion and Brett Wilson. Out on West Washington Street, the family cheered a passing Hagerstown Police Department cruiser.

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Mildred Morris, the victim's aunt, said the family was pleased with the verdict and how the state prosecuted the case.

During closing arguments, Cirincion contended that Morris' death met the standards of first-degree murder. A first-degree murder conviction requires that a person willfully, deliberately premeditated and with malice murdered someone.

Cirincion showed the jury photos taken during Morris' autopsy and pointed to the five wounds on his back.

"How can you argue or believe for a second that this man posed a threat to Marshall Adams?" she asked. "This was not self-defense."

"No part of this man's torso was untouched by Marshall Adams," she said.

Cirincion also explained why Morris' right hand, found with a finger almost severed and entangled with the fabric of his jacket, was important to the state's case.

His hand was probably injured early in the conflict, as an expert witness testified, and Morris could not use his dominant hand to defend himself, she said.

Adams' attorneys argued that he acted in self-defense.

Baltimore psychologist Dr. Lawrence Donner, an expert witness in the field of clinical and forensic psychology, testified that he met with Adams for more than six hours, reviewed hospital and police records, and gave Adams a battery of tests.

Donner described Adams as a short, slender, balding, biracial loner who looked older than his 27 years. Adams has delicate facial features, an unusually small head and is a polite, soft-spoken man, Donner testified.

Adams used drugs and alcohol to medicate himself for depression and he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after enduring beatings as a child and watching his mother attempt to commit suicide several times, Donner testified.

Adams did not trust other people, and information in police reports about Morris' death were "highly consistent" with Adams' psychological profile, Donner testified.

When a person is always a victim, tension and rage builds up until the person explodes at the slightest provocation, Donner testified.

Adams admitted to killing Morris, Assistant Public Defender Jerome J. Joyce said during closing arguments. A witness testified that Morris was a violent person who carried a knife and was known to sell fake drugs, Joyce said.

But Adams had no motive to kill Morris, and "Morris was bigger and brought a knife" when he met Adams that night, Joyce said.

Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. ordered a presentence investigation to be completed before sentencing.

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