February 18, 2005

Experts: Defrocked Priest Could Have Strong Appeal


POSTED: 5:53 pm EST February 18, 2005

BALTIMORE -- Experts on criminal law said Friday that inappropriate testimony by police detectives alleging that a defrocked priest had abused others gave the ex-cleric a strong case to appeal his child sex abuse conviction.

Maurice Blackwell was found guilty Thursday of molesting Dontee Stokes, 29, who shot the priest he once considered a father figure a decade after the abuse ended. Blackwell faces 45 years in prison when he's sentenced April 15.

During the trial, two police detectives testified separately of allegations that Blackwell had abused others. An angry Circuit Judge Stuart Berger, who had earlier prohibited such testimony, threatened to hold Detective Shawn Harrison and Lt. Frederick Roussey in contempt of court for their testimony and for talking to the media outside the courthouse. But Berger rejected a defense call for a mistrial, instead instructing the jury to disregard what they'd heard.

Blackwell's attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, said the testimony, once heard in open court, ruined Blackwell's chance for a fair trial. An assistant to Ravenell said Friday that the defense would file a motion for a new trial within 10 days. An appeal to a higher court would follow if the judge rejected that motion.

Even though the judge ordered the jury to disregard the detectives' testimony, Ravenell said that "it's impossible for people to wipe clear what they've already heard."

Posted by kshaw at February 18, 2005 05:58 PM