Former Hagerstown man serving a 50-year murder sentence seeks new trial

January 18, 2013|By DON AINES |

A former Hagerstown man serving a 50-year sentence for the 1998 murder of his estranged girlfriend was back in Washington County Circuit Court on Friday seeking a new trial.

John S. Weir, 51, was claiming ineffective assistance of council when he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in March 1999 for the Aug. 2,1998, shooting death of Tina Vinzant, Assistant State’s Attorney Gina Cirincion said after the hearing before three judges.

Weir is also claiming that his attorney at a 2008 post-conviction hearing failed to raise issues of mental competency, court records said.

Weir was not represented by council in the hearing before Fourth Circuit Administrative Judge Gary Leasure and Washington County Circuit Court Judges Daniel P. Dwyer and Dana Moylan Wright.

Weir said in court that Judge Frederick C. Wright III did not cite case law in his denial of Weir’s post-conviction petition in a 2008 hearing. Cirincion told the judges that Wright’s ruling was from the bench, not written.

Weir is seeking to have his post-conviction proceeding re-opened so he can argue he had ineffective assistance of counsel in that 2008 hearing, according to court documents he filed.

Weir previously petitioned to have the proceedings re-opened, Cirincion said.

Those were denied by Judge W. Kennedy Boone III in 2009 and Judge Donald E. Beachley last year, Cirincion said.    

The judges will issue a ruling in the near future, Leasure told Weir at the conclusion of Friday’s hearing.

Vinzant, then 34, died hours after being shot in the abdomen on Locust Street on the night of Aug. 2, 1998, The Herald-Mail reported at the time.

Weir was found at the scene, as well, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, from which he recovered, said Cirincion, the prosecutor when Weir entered his plea 13 years ago.

The shooting occurred after Weir and Vinzant argued in a tavern and he left, later parking his truck on Locust Street near Vinzant’s home, The Herald-Mail reported.

Weir and Vinzant were both found near the truck, The Herald-Mail reported.

Weir was sentenced to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended, Cirincion said.

In his latest petition, Weir wrote that he had “self inflicted wounds as part of this crime.” Weir wrote that his lawyer at the time of his plea “failed to show the court the medication petitioner was on before and during his plea hearing,” raising questions as to whether it was voluntary.

Weir wrote that his post-conviction attorney in 2008 was ineffective, in part, for failing to make a motion for a not criminally responsible plea or a competency hearing.

“Petitioner tried to kill himself by putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger,” Weir wrote, referring to himself. “What more evidence could the court possibl(y) need to see the question of competency to stand trial was valid?”

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