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Prosecutors, Wroten family disappointed with Morris sentence

January 29, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

ELLICOTT CITY, MD. -- Prosecutors were disappointed with the sentence, and they felt the death penalty would have been an appropriate punishment for Brandon T. Morris, Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said Monday afternoon.

"There is going to be an ongoing concern about the safety in the prisons with this individual who is violent," Strong told reporters gathered outside the Howard County Circuit Courthouse.

Tracey Wroten, slain correctional officer Jeffery Wroten's former wife and mother of his four daughters, said she completely supported the decision by prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Judge Joseph P. Manck explained in court Monday morning that part of his decision was based on a feeling that the appeals process associated with a death penalty is "cruel and unusual punishment for surviving victims to go through."

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Tracey Wroten said that decision would have best been left to the families.

"It would have been worth that process for justice to be served," she said.

She was disappointed and "probably a little angry" with the sentence, she said.

Other family members also were disappointed that Morris didn't get a harsher sentence, said Jeffery Wroten's half sister, Sharon Fong.

Deterring other inmates from committing violence against correctional officers was an argument in favor of the death penalty, Fong said.

"We have a vested interest in these officers," she said.

The Wroten family doesn't want any other family to go through what they've gone through the past two years, Fong said.

"There's no doubt he's going to try something again," she said.

Every day, Tracey Wroten watched as Morris was ushered into the courtroom, mouthing obscenities to the officers who surrounded him and making a rude gesture with his middle finger, she said.

Wroten's daughters were in the courtroom when the sentence was imposed, but they were shepherded to a waiting vehicle to avoid media attention outside the courthouse.

The youngest daughter is 7 years old, Tracey Wroten said.

"We had to explain details to children that children should never hear," she said.

Knowing her children would find out about the last words their father ever heard was one of the most trying aspects of the trial, Tracey Wroten said.

Morris held a gun to Wroten's head and told him, "I'm going to kill you, you (expletive)," a split second before he pulled the trigger, according to witness testimony.

Tracey Wroten characterized the apology Morris read Thursday in court as "cold words written by his attorneys."

She has no mercy for Morris, Wroten said.

"He made a conscious decision to kill my daughters' father," she said.

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