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Judges deny most of RCI correctional officer's killer's appeal

April 29, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- An appellate court panel has turned down the bulk of an appeal by a man serving a life sentence for shooting a correctional officer to death.

In a decision filed Thursday, a Maryland Court of Special Appeals panel ruled that a trial court correctly allowed a death penalty notice and testimony in Brandon T. Morris' trial for killing correctional officer Jeffery A. Wroten.

Morris is serving a life sentence for killing Wroten, a Roxbury Correctional Institution officer, in January 2006.

Morris' appeal alleged that the trial court erred in denying his motion to strike the prosecution's death penalty notice and in allowing trial testimony by Wroten's ex-wife.

The appeal also challenged how "escape" was defined for the jury and whether evidence supported Morris' convictions.

The three-judge panel rejected Morris' challenges on those points. But it agreed with another argument: that two first-degree assault sentences should have been merged into sentences for robbery and attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon.

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The court ordered the two first-degree assault sentences to be vacated. The ruling doesn't affect Morris' life sentence.

The Court of Special Appeals is Maryland's mid-level appellate court. The Maryland Court of Appeals is the top court.

Wroten, 44, lived in Martinsburg, W.Va.

He was guarding Morris at Washington County Hospital, where Morris was being treated after stabbing a sewing needle into his liver.

Morris shot and killed Wroten with the officer's gun.

Morris was found guilty in January 2008 of first-degree murder and numerous other criminal charges.

A judge ordered Morris to spend his life in prison without parole, escaping a possible death sentence.

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