Lawyer for suspect in slayings wants hearing in assault closed

August 02, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - The defense for Douglas Wayne Pryor, who is charged with first-degree murder in the December 2007 deaths of a Smithsburg police officer and his former girlfriend, has asked that a hearing scheduled for Wednesday in an unrelated criminal matter be closed.

Pryor, 29, is awaiting trial in Montgomery County in connection with Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson's shooting death and the death of 31-year-old Alison Munson.

Munson was found dead in her Halfway apartment Dec. 19, 2007. As authorities sought Pryor that night, Nicholson was fatally shot while he waited for backup to arrive at a Smithsburg-area location where authorities thought Pryor might turn up.

Pryor faces the death penalty if convicted of Nicholson's death.

The case to be heard Wednesday involves a second-degree assault charge against Pryor, who was accused of domestic violence against Munson in November 2007.


"Any additional public information and/or pretrial publicity regarding domestic violence allegations between the defendant and Alison Munson is extremely prejudicial to the defendant and has the absolute potential to infect defendant's ability to receive a fair trial in his capital case," Assistant Public Defender Brian Hutchison wrote in the motion.

Hutchison also filed a motion to continue Wednesday's case, a motion for a change of venue and a motion to sequester the jury.

All of Hutchison's motions surrounded issues of the extensive pretrial publicity in the cases surrounding the two deaths.

In the motion to continue Wednesday's case, he wrote that the publicity would taint jury selection in the capital case, and that the assault case should be postponed until after the murder case is resolved.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Munson was granted a protective order that forbade Pryor from having any contact with her, but his access to guns and knives was not addressed. Court records show the order was served on Pryor on Nov. 8 at 23436 Welty Church Road in Smithsburg, where he once had lived with Munson, The Herald-Mail has reported.

Pryor also was charged with second-degree assault on Nov. 1, 2007, in connection with the incident that led Munson to ask the court for a protective order and to take away Pryor's weapons, according to court records.

The charge stemmed from an incident Oct. 31 when Pryor, enraged over a letter he read, began to hit Munson, leaving bruises on her head, face, chest and forearm, Deputy M. Sullivan wrote in charging documents filed in Washington County District Court.

Munson visited someone at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., on Sept. 30. When Pryor learned about the visit in a letter Oct. 31, he became furious, Sullivan wrote in charging documents.

"He got angry and began hitting me in the face, pushing me, he kicked me in the head then full fist punched me in the face," Munson wrote in her petition for protection.

Munson told police she "was unsure why he was angry" because they were separated when she made the visit, Sullivan wrote.

In July, a Washington County Circuit Court judge transferred Pryor's capital trial to Montgomery County Circuit Court at the request of the defense. Such a change of venue is automatic in death penalty cases if the defense requests it.

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