Trial set for RCI inmate accused of killing correctional officer

October 19, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

ELLICOTT CITY, MD. ? A Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate charged in the 2006 slaying of a correctional officer is set to stand trial next year in Howard County Circuit Court, State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. said Friday.

Jury selection in the death penalty case of Brandon T. Morris begins Jan. 7, 2008, Strong said.

Scheduling for the rest of the trial has not been set, Strong said.

Morris, 21, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and other offenses in the shooting death of Roxbury Correctional Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten.

Wroten, 44, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was shot with his own gun while guarding Morris at Washington County Hospital on Jan. 26, 2006, police have said.

Wroten died the next day.

Morris also is accused in the armed carjacking of an R&D Enterprises taxi in front of the hospital during his alleged escape. The indictment alleges that Morris kidnapped the taxi driver and robbed him of cash while eluding police in a taxi.


Morris was captured less than an hour after allegedly fleeing the hospital. A slow-speed police chase north on U.S. 11 ended north of Hagerstown.

Morris, who was serving an eight-year sentence for assault and robbery, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The prosecution filed notice in March 2006 that the state would seek the death penalty for Morris if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III granted Morris' request for a change of venue during a motions hearing in September 2006.

Morris' trial was set for June, but on May 31 an unrestrained Morris tried to run toward the door of a courtroom during jury selection, starting a melee that left two prospective jurors and two sheriff's deputies slightly injured, the Associated Press reported.

Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney postponed the trial and recused himself. He still may hear certain pretrial proceedings.

Strong declined to comment on what security measures will be in place during Morris' trial.

Arcangelo Tuminelli, one of Morris' defense attorneys, also declined to comment. Morris also is being represented by the Office of the Public Defender.

In a death penalty case, a defendant is first tried on the issues of guilt or innocence, Strong has said. If a jury returns verdicts on any charges that carry the death penalty, there is a second hearing at which sentencing is determined.

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