Prince George's County police and federal marshals are looking for a murder defendant mistakenly released by a judge who admitted that he did not look at the man's file before issuing an order to let him out of jail without bail.
County Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia said in an interview that he inadvertently ordered the release of Pedro H. Guifarro, 25, of Chillum on Oct. 4. Guifarro is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly being the driver in what prosecutors believe was a gang-related killing in the Adelphi area.
Femia said he was unaware that he was ordering the release of a man accused of first-degree murder. With rare exceptions, such defendants are held without bond.
"Like a damn dummy, I didn't even look at the file," Femia said. "I screwed up."
Authorities have been looking for Guifarro since shortly after his release.
Femia, 69, served on the Circuit Court bench for 20 years and retired in 1997. He sits the bench in the Upper Marlboro courthouse part time, usually presiding over the so-called rocket docket, in which the judge quickly hears dozens of cases involving lower-level offenses.
Femia said that when he ordered Guifarro's release, he thought he was dealing with a different case.
Four days before Femia signed off on Guifarro's release, an attorney in an unrelated case involving a nonviolent offense told him that a bench warrant had been placed on his client by mistake, Femia said. The client, who has a Latino name, was free on his own recognizance, and the attorney asked Femia to rescind the bench warrant, the judge said. Femia said he told the attorney he'd take care of it.
Femia said he was scheduled to hear two jury trials Oct 4. One was postponed, and the attorneys in the second case were in plea negotiations, Femia said.
When Guifarro's file was presented to him and he saw the defendant had a Latino name, Femia said, he assumed it was the case involving the erroneous bench warrant.
According to a court transcript, Femia read the case number and Guifarro's name out loud, spelling the defendant's last name. Femia then said, "Please note the bench warrant has been recalled and the recognizance is reinstated."
Neither Guifarro's defense attorney nor the prosecutor in the case was present when Femia issued his order.
Femia said the file apparently was presented to him because of a clerical error.
On Sept. 16, Femia presided over Guifarro's arraignment, the judge said. The next week, the public defender's office referred the case to a private panel attorney, who notified the court that he was representing Guifarro.
Apparently, the court clerk did not put the attorney's name into the file, Femia said. The file was sent back to him Oct. 4 for re-arraignment because it appeared that Guifarro did not have an attorney, Femia said.
The apparent clerical error does not diminish his responsibility, Femia said. "Bottom line, I signed off on that docket entry," he said.
On Tuesday, prosecutors filed a motion seeking to reinstate Guifarro's "no bond" status, saying he had been released by mistake. Circuit Court Judge Thomas P. Smith granted the order.
Guifarro is accused of being the driver in a fatal shooting that occurred Aug. 1 in the 2100 block of Guilford Road. According to police charging documents, Edgar Carrera, 23, was standing near his parked vehicle when a pickup driven by Guifarro pulled up. A man in the pickup, Juan Rodriguez, exchanged words with Carrera, then shot him in the head, the charging documents allege.
Guifarro then drove away, according to the documents.
Rodriguez is jailed without bond on a charge of first-degree murder, prosecutors said. Both defendants allegedly admitted their involvement in the shooting to police, according to the charging documents.
Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia said.