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Opening of death penalty trial in prison death delayed

Trial in Annapolis expected to last seven weeks

By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

9:52 PM EST, January 9, 2012

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With jury selection extending past last week, opening statements that had been scheduled for Monday in the death penalty trial of a prisoner charged with killing a correctional officer are expected to take place Wednesday.

Lee Edward Stephens, 32, is one of two life-term prisoners accused of fatally stabbing David McGuinn in July 2006 as he walked on a skinny catwalk along cells at the Maryland House of Correction. The slaying was among the main reasons the prison, in Jessup, was closed.

The case ultimately could test the validity of the state's 2009 death penalty law changes, reserve the death penalty for murders in which there is a videotaped confession, a video recording of the crime, or DNA or other biological evidence linking the defendant to the crime. In this case, prosecutors said they have DNA. The trial is expected to last seven weeks.

No trial date has been set for the second accused prisoner, Lamar C. Harris, 41. His mental fitness to stand trial is in question.

Andrea.sigel@baltsun.com

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