The U.S. Supreme Court refused yesterday to hear the appeal of two men convicted of killing Frostburg State College student Stephanie Anne Roper, thereby clearing the way for their trial on additional rape charges in Prince George's County.
Jack Ronald Jones and Jerry Lee Beatty were convicted in the fall of 1982 in other jurisdictions for the abduction, rape and murder of the 22-year-old Prince George's woman the previous April. They received sentences making them eligible for parole in 12 years.
In reaction to what they perceived as lenient sentences, Prince George's prosecutors brought new charges, but the defendants' lawyers argued that the their clients would be subjected to double jeopardy should they be tried again.
Jones, 28, is now scheduled to be tried Dec. 17. The trial of Beatty, 19, is set for next February.
Vincent Roper, father of the slain woman, said yesterday he was pleased with the Supreme Court's action and said he and his family are preparing themselves to go through a painful trial again. "If we can get a true life sentence for those butchers, then it's worth it," he said.
After the first trial, Roper's family, neighbors and others, enraged by what they regarded as lenient sentences, formed the Stephanie Roper Committee to lobby the state legislature for tougher sentencing laws and other measures they have described as "victims' rights."
Prince George's State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall, who has closely aligned himself with the Roper Committee, said yesterday he was not surprised that the Supreme Court turned down the case. "There's nothing novel about this case," Marshall said. "The double jeopardy issue has been resolved time and time again." Marshall explained that the two men have been indicted only for the rapes that occurred in Prince George's.
Jones and Beatty were convicted of kidnaping Roper, a Frostburg State senior honors student, after her car broke down on a rural Prince George's County road. Roper was raped repeatedly in several locations, according to trial evidence, before she was taken to St. Mary's County, where she was killed.
Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Walter R. Haile sentenced Jones to two life sentences for rape and murder, plus a 20-year term for kidnaping, all to run concurrently. Beatty pleaded guilty to the same charges and received an identical sentence from an Anne Arundel County judge.
Earlier this year, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected their double jeopardy argument, and the state Court of Appeals refused to hear their case. Petitioning the Supreme Court was their last avenue of appeal.
Prosecutor Marshall, who is running for a circuit court judgeship and who has often criticized judges' sentencing of criminals, said yesterday that he might not have pursued the additional rape charges "if they had received consecutive life sentences that would have made them eligible for parole in about 28 years."