Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William M. Cave has denied a prosecutor's request to impose a life sentence on a defendant convicted in a double slaying for which Cave gave two accomplices life terms without the possibility of parole.

Cave yesterday reinstated the 10-year prison sentence he gave to Frank Miranda for his role in the Oct. 4, 1989, killings of William Williams Jr., 19, and Earl Jerome, 18, at a Silver Spring apartment. Police said the slayings stemmed from a dispute over a $200 drug debt and an $800 gold nugget bracelet.

County prosecutors had objected to the 10-year prison sentence at a Sept. 28 hearing, arguing that Maryland law mandates a life term for persons convicted of first-degree murder. They noted that a judge has discretion to suspend any portion of a life sentence and, for example, could have suspended all but 10 years in Miranda's case.

Prosecutors said that Miranda would have to serve the full 10 years if the rest of a life sentence were suspended, whereas he could be eligible for parole in two or three years under the 10-year sentence that was imposed.

The judge yesterday disagreed that he was required to impose a life sentence and said he thought his original sentence was justified because Miranda was not the triggerman.

Prosecutors immediately appealed Cave's decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The disparity in the sentences handed down by Cave for the three defendants prompted charges of racism by the family of one of the victims, both of whom were black. Miranda, 19, is white; his codefendants, Anthony Wells, 28, and Kevin Hernandez, 27, are black.

Cave strongly objected to suggestions race played a role in the sentencings, saying Wells and Hernandez received life terms because they were the triggermen.