Bowie Man Acquitted of Murder After Serving 12 Years
Thursday, November 1, 2007
A Montgomery County jury yesterday acquitted a Bowie man who was accused in the 1994 slaying of a drug dealer, marking the first time county prosecutors have lost a first-degree murder case outright in more than a decade.
As they left the courtroom after deliberating less than two hours, several jurors hugged defendant Eric D. Lynn, 38. They had not been told that he was initially convicted in the slaying and had served a dozen years in prison before an appeals court granted him a new trial.
"They did the right thing," Lynn said after the verdict as he stood next to his parents, who wept. "I am a totally innocent man. . . . Don't know if I would have been married by now, have kids."
Two jurors said that there were serious holes in the testimony of the state's main witness -- a former paid police informant who used and sold crack in the Langley Park area -- and that they were troubled by the police work in the case.
"The prosecution's case depended upon the testimony of a witness which the jury found to be wholly un-credible," said juror Elizabeth Hendon of Bethesda. "There was no other evidence."
She said jurors also thought that former and current police investigators had "credibility issues."
The former police informer, referred to in court only as "Sandy," was the backbone of the state's case, and her uncorroborated testimony was supported only by police officials who vouched for her trustworthiness. The state presented no forensic evidence.
Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said he was disappointed by the outcome. The case was handled by two seasoned prosecutors, Eric J. Nee and Alex Foster.
"We respect the verdict of the jury," McCarthy said. "We were mindful of the difficulties of any case you retry 13, 14 years" after the crime.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Montgomery County said acquittals in murder cases -- there are about 20 slayings a year in the county -- are rare. Several veteran trial lawyers in the county -- including McCarthy, who has been in the office for more than 20 years -- said they couldn't recall the last time it happened.
In the Lynn case, prosecutors lost two key legal fights before the trial began. Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson barred them from introducing evidence gathered during a search of Lynn's house, because he found that investigators had misrepresented information in an application for a search warrant. And the judge did not allow the state to introduce evidence that Lynn had been convicted in an armed robbery in Prince George's County.
The case largely boiled down to the credibility of Sandy, described by the prosecution as belonging in the informer "hall of fame" and by the defense as a drug addict who would have no qualms about framing an innocent man.