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Court overturns man's conviction in 2006 stabbing death

Ruling: Testimony about defendant's statements should not have been admitted

May 27, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- A former Hagerstown man convicted in a 2006 stabbing death has had his case sent back to Washington County Circuit Court after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned his conviction Wednesday.

The appellate court ruled that Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. erred in allowing testimony about statements Marshall Adams made to police officers without his attorney present. The court also ruled that Long failed to instruct the jury on the "rule of hot-blooded response to legally adequate provocation" in the case of Adams, who is serving a 40-year sentence for first-degree murder.

Adams, 30, was convicted in July 2007 of the April 13, 2006, killing of Leo Anthony Morris, 31, whose body was found at 4:45 a.m. on a walkway at Bethel Gardens Apartments in the 300 block of Bethune Avenue, according to published reports. Morris's last known address was Ranson, W.Va., according to published reports.

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"Ms. Riley and myself felt reasonably confident that would be the result," said Assistant Public Defender Jerome Joyce, who represented Adams along with Deputy District Public Defender Mary S. Riley.

"We felt the admission of that evidence was patently inappropriate," said Joyce, adding that he and Riley will be preparing for a new trial. The Court of Special Appeals opinion stated that the court should not have allowed into evidence statements Adams made to Hagerstown City Police detectives when they went to the Washington County Detention Center on Nov. 29, 2006, to serve Adams notice of the state's intent to seek a sentence of life without parole. The court ruled that the statements should have been suppressed because they were made outside the presence of Adams' attorney.

"Why are they coming after me so hard for this?" Adams said, according to trial testimony by Detective Shane Blankenship.

"Well, it's because you stabbed a guy 32 times," Blankenship testified he told Adams.

Blankenship testified that Adams responded by telling him he had only stabbed Morris seven times, according to the court's opinion.

The Court of Special Appeals also ruled that Long erred in not instructing the jury about the rule of hot-blooded response to legal provocation, writing in the opinion that "Adams met the minimal burden of showing that there was 'some' evidence in the record to support a potential finding that he reacted ... to a surprising robbery attempt by Leo Morris."

After being taken into custody, Adams asserted that Morris wanted to buy cocaine from him, according to the court opinion. When the two met to complete the sale, Morris threatened Adams with a knife and attempted to rob Adams of the cocaine, the opinion stated.

On a third issue, the Court of Special Appeals ruled that the trial court did not err in admitting expert testimony about the sequence of the wounds sustained by Morris.

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