A federal appeals court has ordered a new trial for an Annapolis man who was convicted on “vulnerable” evidence and has since served almost eight years in jail for the brutal beating of a restaurant manager.
Brady George Spicer was convicted in 1991 of assault with intent to murder for the daylight beating of Armadillo’s restaurant manager Francis Denvir, who was working on the payroll at the time of the Feb. 22, 1990, attack. Spicer was sentenced to 30 years in the attack.
But a divided panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Spicer should get a new trial because prosecutors failed to tell the defense that the main witness against him had given two versions of his story.
Court documents also noted that the witness, Larry Brown, was facing a 20- year sentence on a cocaine conviction when he offered to testify against Spicer in exchange for a lighter sentence. Brown, who has since died, later recanted his testimony on tape.
The court said Spicer must get a new trial within four months or be released. He is now being held on home detention.
But Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Frank Weathersbee said that, even without Brown, the state has enough evidence to convict Spicer again if they have to.
“We think we have the witnesses to show that he’s the right guy,” Weathersbee said. “We wouldn’t retry him if we didn’t think he was the right person.”
The beating went unsolved for six months, until Brown came forward and told prosecutors he thought Spicer might have been involved, according to court documents.
Brown originally told the defense attorney in his cocaine trial that he had not seen Spicer the day of the attack. But as a witness for the prosecution, Brown testified that he had seen “Spicy” running from the scene of the crime.
The appeals court said prosecutors were aware of the conflicting stories given by Brown, their star witness. But it said prosecutors never notified defense attorneys, who could have punched holes in Brown’s testimony if they had known.
“The rest of the case was extremely weak,” said Nancy Maggitti Cohen, one of Spicer’s attorneys.
The court agreed, calling even the eyewitness testimony “vulnerable.”
Besides Brown, there were only two eyewitnesses. One, a bartender at Armadillo’s, identified the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Spicer in court as the attacker, even though he had described the assailant as 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds shortly after the attack. The second witness, who was working in a nearby alley when the suspect ran by, could only say in court that Spicer looked “very, very familiar.”
The state presented no physical evidence to tie Spicer to the crime. After the conviction, police and investigating officers said they believed Spicer was not guilty.
But in a dissenting opinion, Judge Robert King said that “evidence of Spicer’s guilt was substantial” and that the majority’s tinkering would undermine the ability of prosecutors to use “brigands and blackguards” like Brown to land convictions.
Weathersbee said he thought the attorney general would appeal the case to the full court early next week. The other option would be to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Cohen said the continuing appeals, despite the objections of those involved with the case, have disappointed her.
“They are enabling Anne Arundel County to keep an innocent man incarcerated,” she said.