Maryland's highest court ordered a Baltimore judge yesterday to decide whether two letters of recommendation written on behalf of a convicted murderer that it had earlier accepted as true are forgeries.
The court last month overturned a death sentence given to Willie "Sweetsie" Reid, 38, for murdering an elderly Baltimore couple in 1983, and ruled at that time that jurors should have considered the letters from prison officials claiming Reid had rehabilitated himself.
But after reading news reports of the court decision the following day, the warden of the Baltimore City Jail told prosecutors that the letters, written on jail stationery, were phony.
One letter, purportedly written by a Capt. Matthew Saunders, praised Reid for making "commendable progress" toward rehabilitation and the other, signed by a Vance Rosenbaum, identified as a treatment director of a city rehabilitation center, said Reid had made "considerable progress."
The warden, Paul J. Davis, said no such persons ever worked at the jail or rehabilitation center.
If the Baltimore circuit judge finds the letters are forgeries, the appeals court ordered, the case should be returned to the appeals judges for consideration of several other grounds of appeals claimed by Reid.
If the letters prove to be authentic, a second sentencing hearing must be held for Reid.
Assistant Attorney General Deborah Chasanow said yesterday she has heard nothing to contradict the assertion by Warden Davis that the letters are bogus. Defense attorney Mark Colvin, who had argued to the appeals court that objections to the letters should have been raised during the original sentencing, declined to discuss their authenticity.
Reid, along with John E. Booth, 32, was convicted last year of the stabbing death of Rose Bronstein, 75, and her husband Irvin, 78, during a robbery at their home in northwest Baltimore. Separate juries sentenced each man to die in the gas chamber. Booth's sentence also is under appeal.
The Bronsteins' bodies were discovered, bound, gagged and stabbed, by their son, Barry, when he went to the house to have his father fitted for a tuxedo for the wedding of the Bronsteins' granddaughter.