Dotson likely to be sent to Texas

Lawyers for Carlton Dotson, the Eastern Shore man accused of killing his former Baylor University basketball teammate, have little chance of blocking his extradition to Texas, legal experts said yesterday.

In Maryland, the grounds for battling extradition are narrow, leaving little leeway for the governor or a judge to deny a request to return Dotson to Texas -- where he could face the death penalty.

"Absent the legal equivalent of lightning, Dotson is going to Texas," predicted Michael A. Millemann, a University of Maryland law professor.

Dotson, 21, was arrested Monday night on a Texas murder charge after authorities said he admitted killing Patrick Dennehy, an ex-roommate and teammate who has been missing for more than a month. Dotson, who lives in the town of Hurlock, is being held without bail in the Kent County Detention Center.

The arrest occurred after he called Chestertown police, asking for help. Partial tapes of his 911 calls, released yesterday by Kent County officials in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, indicate that Dotson called twice Sunday and agreed to meet officers outside a Super Fresh grocery store. He asked dispatchers to contact Dorchester County police for him.

When a dispatcher asked whether Dotson was wanted by authorities, he answered: "No I am not wanted by them, but um, I uh, I mean they -- they want to keep close tabs on me."

As police in Waco, Texas, continued searching for Dennehy's body yesterday, the legal proceedings surrounding the high-profile case began to move forward in Maryland.

A hearing on Dotson's extradition is scheduled for Aug. 19, said Teresa C. Shelton, a clerk in the criminal section for the District Court in Kent County. That hearing is designed to provide an update on the proceedings in which he can waive extradition or challenge it. If he challenges extradition, the recommendation is made by an assistant attorney general to the governor.

Dotson's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., has said he plans to fight extradition and win. Kent County State's Attorney Robert Strong said he does not foresee an extradition battle.

Irvin told the Associated Press that Dotson, with whom he spoke yesterday, may not have been in the proper "mental state" to be questioned by authorities. Dotson may also undergo a psychiatric evaluation this week, said Irvin, who will request details about it.

Irvin, who has described Dotson as confused and wandering near his home reciting Bible passages, would not say whether he is laying the groundwork for a psychiatric defense.

But Dotson's mental health would not be a factor in an extradition decision, legal experts say.

"You can be floridly psychotic, and that is not a defense to extradition," Millemann said.

Maryland law allows three reasons for challenging extradition -- leaving questions of guilt up to the state that is demanding a defendant's return, lawyers say.

Grounds for a challenge are the arrest of the wrong person, proof that the defendant was not in the state demanding his return at the time of the alleged offense, and showing that the charging documents are faulty. Each is hard to demonstrate, according to the experts.

The charges, officially sent by Texas to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., trigger the right to a hearing to challenge extradition. Dotson has not filed a request, said Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman. Such requests are forwarded to the office of the secretary of state.

About 80 percent of defendants waive or do not challenge extradition, said Rick Morris, a deputy director of the secretary of state's office.

Maryland is one of two states that offer governor's extradition hearings, which are held by Assistant Attorney General Stuart G. Buppert II. He then makes recommendations to the governor.

Buppert said he typically holds five or six hearings a month, and they are short. In his 12 years on the job, he said, it is rare that a defendant has been able to show that he should not be extradited. In one case, the defendant's records showed he had clocked in at work in Maryland at the time he was alleged to have committed a crime in another state.

A defendant dissatisfied with the governor's decision can appeal through the courts.

But some people challenge extradition for other reasons: to buy the defense time or to provide a public forum for their case, legal experts said.

"It may give your attorneys time to conduct some preliminary discovery and find out what is going on and why it is going on. It may give you some time to get together local counsel and start putting in place some things you need to have in that demanding state -- are you going to be able to get money together for bond," said William C. Mulford II, whose practice includes criminal defense work.

But while an extradition challenge gives the defense time to get started, it also gives authorities time to work on their investigation, he said.

"You have an opportunity to proclaim your innocence, and the media is going to cover that. Once he is back in Texas in a Waco jail, he is not going to have any opportunity to make statements through counsel," said University of Maryland law professor Douglas L. Colbert, noting that a judge there probably will impose a gag order.

In some types of extradition cases, the political climate can be a consideration for a governor, he said.

Colbert recalled two successful claims against extradition that he made, both more than 20 years ago, one in Maryland and one in New York, for men already convicted. In the New York case, he said, the governor declined to return a man to Texas to finish a 60-year sentence for possession of marijuana because of the length of the sentence.

Sun staff writers Ryan Davis and Chris Guy contributed to this article.

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