ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals Friday upheld the first-degree murder conviction of Curtis Aden Jamison in the 1993 strangulation of a 15-year-old Columbia girl.
Jamison, now 31, of Baltimore, was convicted on Oct. 24, 1995, in Howard County for killing Tara Allison Gladden because he believed her family was about to come forward with charges of statutory rape.
Tara’s nude and decomposing body was found in a drainage tunnel near her Columbia home, not quite a month after she disappeared and one day after what would have been her 16th birthday.
Jamison was arrested and tried after a 17-month search. On Jan. 19, 1996, he was sentenced to life without parole by Howard County Circuit Court Judge James Dudley.
Jamison, who at the time of his conviction was serving a 20- year sentence at Hagerstown’s Roxbury Correctional Institute for statutory rape charges involving two other girls, appealed, arguing that the trial court had erroneously admitted evidence used against him.
Most of that evidence involved a former friend of Tara’s, who at age 12 became her secret rival for Jamison’s sexual attention. At the trial, the girl, then 16, admitted to knowing about the killing for almost a month, but testified she said nothing for fear of losing Jamison.
She also testified that Jamison had told her he was a drug dealer — testimony with which Jamison’s lawyer, Michael Braudes, took issue in his appeal.
Braudes wrote that even if Jamison was a drug dealer that fact should not have been admitted because it could have prejudiced the jury against Jamison.
However, the appellate court said it would not overturn because the defense made only an initial objection and did not renew its protest when the point was brought up later in the trial by the same witness.
Braudes also wrote that police-recorded telephone conversations between the girl and Jamison were inadmissable, because she was not of proper age to consent to wiretapping. Braudes added that she may have felt coerced into cooperating with police, given her age.
Here the court decided that “age itself is not a prohibitory factor.” And since the girl and her parents both signed consent forms, and cooperated with police, the court wrote, the trial court was correct in allowing the tapes.
Braudes further argued that during the prosecution’s closing argument, the burden of proof was unfairly shifted from the state to the defendant.
Jamison had told a detective that on the day Tara was killed, he was with a friend working on a car.
In court, the prosecutor said Jamison had informed police that several witnesses — including family members — could support his alibi, but that Jamison had produced none on his behalf during the trial.
Braudes wrote: “It was the state’s obligation to produce witnesses to establish Mr. Jamison’s guilt, not Mr. Jamison’s obligation to call witnesses to establish his innocence.”
But as in the testimony of Jamison’s alleged drug dealing, the court saw the lack of a timely objection as sufficient grounds to decline to review the point.
Finally, Braudes wrote that the court should not have accepted the opinion of Johanna Gladden, the victim’s mother, regarding Tara’s whereabouts the day she was murdered.
In court, Gladden testified she was “100 percent certain” that her daughter was with Jamison.
Braudes argued this should not have been allowed because Gladden had no first-hand knowledge. However, the court disagreed.
Tara’s parents had sent her to visit relatives in California for a three-week period shortly before she was killed. During that time, they learned the nature of her relationship with Jamison.
Upon her return, concerned that Jamison might hurt her or persuade her not to come forward on the statutory rape charges, Tara’s parents kept a vigilant watch on her activities.
The first day she was left alone, July 22, 1993, was the day of her murder.
Therefore, the court said, Tara’s mother had a “firm foundation to render an opinion regarding her daughter’s whereabouts. Thus the trial court did not err in its ruling as to this testimony.”
Neither attorneys for the state nor for Jamison could be reached for comment Friday.
State corrections officials said Jamison was incarcerated at the Maryland House of Corrections Annex in Jessup. –30–