By Amanda Burdette
ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Thursday that the clock starts ticking on a defendant’s request for a new sentence on his most recent sentencing date.
The decision came in the first-degree murder and rape case of Vincent Greco, found guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court for the murder and rape of Leta J. Larsen, 78.
Sentenced to consecutive life imprisonment terms in 1984, Greco appealed for a lighter sentence. In 1992, he was granted a reduction to concurrent life terms.
Ninety days later, Greco filed for a second sentence reduction, but the circuit court refused to hear the request since it came eight years after the original sentencing. The court relied on a Maryland trial court rule that says, “The court has revisory power and control over a sentence upon a motion filed within 90 days after its imposition.”
When Greco appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s intermediate court, the Court of Appeals accepted his case for immediate review.
Regina Hollins Lewis, the assistant attorney general who represented the state in the appeal, called the trial court rule in question “clear and unambiguous …. Courts have overwhelmingly interpreted the rule to preclude multiple motions for sentence reduction.”
Judge Irma Raker, writing for the Court of Appeals, looked to the meaning of the word “imposition.” While the state argued that it meant the initial sentencing, Raker observed that prior decisions suggested that “the modification of a sentence … is an imposition of sentence for the purpose of [the] rule.”
Greco’s lawyers had made just that argument, saying that since the second sentence is a different punishment from the original sentence, it can be viewed as “imposition” of a sentence. This means the defendant would have 90 days after the second sentencing to appeal.
Gary Bair, chief of the criminal appeals division in the attorney general’s office, said the decision meant that “trial judges do have the jurisdiction” to modify sentences. The Court of Appeals sent the case back to Baltimore County Circuit Court, where Greco’s new sentence reduction appeal will now be considered. -30-