State seeks dismissal of inmate's request for post-conviction relief in 1979 escape try in Hagerstown

June 25, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- One of two men involved in a daring 1979 escape attempt from the Washington County Courthouse was back in the building Tuesday afternoon.

James E. Moore had requested a post-conviction hearing to challenge his conviction and sentence in that crime, which was tried in Washington County.

Moore was convicted of attempted escape and two counts of assault. He was sentenced to 10 years for each conviction.

Moore, 52, on Tuesday was led into the courtroom, his feet and his arms shackled.

In his request for relief, Moore in part contended that his trial attorney did not file a motion for reduction of his sentence. Moore intended to testify about that issue, said Scott Whitney, of the Office of the Public Defender.

But Moore did not get his hearing Tuesday because Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael made a motion to dismiss Moore's request for post-conviction relief.


A state law passed in 1995 allowed defendants a 10-year period to file a motion for post-conviction relief, Michael said. Michael argued that Moore's opportunity to file ended in 2005, 10 years after the law was passed.

Allowing Moore a post-conviction hearing more than 20 years after he was convicted would give greater rights to defendants involved in older cases, which was not the intent of the law, Michael argued.

Moore's attorney interpreted the law differently. Whitney argued that the law applies only to those defendants sentenced after the law was passed.

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley told Michael and Whitney to submit written arguments, and said he would wait to decide the issue of dismissal.

Moore, who was incarcerated at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore at the time, was in court in Washington County on July 23, 1979, to be a witness in a case involving his brother.

As five prisoners were being taken from the courthouse to vans on the street below, a struggle erupted on the third floor, The Herald-Mail reported.

Moore and a second man had gotten free of their handcuffs, and Moore grabbed a gun from a correctional officer, pointed it at the stomach of another officer and yelled "Freeze," according to the newspaper.

A third officer stuck his thumb between the gun's hammer and firing pin, just before the trigger was squeezed, the newspaper reported.

Moore was wrestled to the ground and the gun was knocked from his hand, according to the newspaper.

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