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Trial continued for inmate accused of sending powder-filled letter

Results of mental health evaluation awaited

September 23, 2010|By DON AINES

The trial of a convicted murderer charged with sending a powder-filled letter to a former Washington County Circuit Court judge was continued Thursday because a mental health evaluation had not yet been received, his defense counsel said.

Robert Douglas Turner, 38, was charged with manufacturing a phony destructive device in the form of a letter sent from state prison in December 2008 to the law office of John P. Corderman, according to the application for statement of charges.

On May 31, Turner's case had been continued to allow time for an evaluation and report to determine whether he is not criminally responsible, Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said at the time.

No report on that evaluation had been received by the defense, state or court as of Thursday, Assistant Public Defender Carl Creeden said. The case was continued with no new date set, he said.

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A determination of not criminally responsible differs from a finding of incompetent to stand trial, according to the Maryland Rules of Criminal Procedure. A person can be determined competent to stand trial, but found not criminally responsible at the time the crime was committed, according to the rules of criminal procedure.

Corderman received the letter mailed from the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., in early December 2008, but did not report it to police until Dec. 8, according to court documents.

"Inhale deeply, Jean. The pipe bomb did not get you. This will ..." read the letter, which court documents said had a return address with Turner's name and inmate number, along with a thumbprint police alleged matches Turner's.

The white powder in the envelope turned out to be harmless, according to the application for statement of charges.

On Dec. 22, 1989, Corderman was injured and hospitalized for three days when a letter delivered to his apartment exploded, according to published reports.

In 1995, Turner pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the 1994 stabbing death of Mark Lowery, according to published reports.

In 1996, Turner sent a threatening letter to the sentencing judge in his case, Frederick C. Wright III. His subsequent conviction for threatening a state official added three years to his 50-year sentence, according to court records.

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