Robert Lee Zeman III is requesting a new trial after he was convicted of accessory after the fact to second-degree murder. At issue, his attorney wrote, is that there was no second-degree murder conviction for him to be party to.
Zeman, 33, of Havre de Grace, was convicted of accessory to second-degree murder, transporting a gun, possessing a regulated firearm after a disqualifying offense and the unlawful sale of a gun on Feb. 14. A jury of nine men and three women deliberated for an hour and a half before deciding his guilt.
Crucially, the jury found Zeman not guilty of being an accessory to first-degree murder — a murder which his brother, Joseph Daniel Parrish, was convicted of and is appealing.
Parrish was never convicted of second-degree murder, so Zeman’s second-degree accessory conviction has no predicate crime to stand on, defense attorney David Henninger explained.
“They allege that he was accessory to his brother’s first-degree murder,” Henninger said. “I am not sure how he is accessory to that.”
Parrish, 28, of Aberdeen, was convicted of first-degree murder, witness retaliation and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony in October.
Zeman’s motion for a new trial, filed Feb. 24, explains that Parrish’s conviction is inconsistent with Zeman’s and requests a new trial to give Zeman another chance to prove his innocence. If granted, Henninger said, Zeman would be retried on all the charges he originally faced.
Henninger said the issue was complicated and that Zeman and Parrish’s cases were tightly intertwined. He also said the jury was not instructed on how Parrish’s conviction might influence Zeman’s jury deliberations.
“It makes sense to the lawyers ... but that is a lot to throw at a jury," Henninger said. “I think the Court of Appeals [that state’s highest court] will have to figure this one out.”
Parrish, too, has filed a motion for a new trial. At a fiery January hearing, he proclaimed his and Zeman’s innocence and intimated he would fire his attorney. In a February call from jail to The Aegis, he repeated both claims.
“An innocent man got convicted of the most heinous crime,” Parrish said. “If they grant me my new trial, I am going home this year.”
Parrish also cast doubt on witnesses’ testimony in his trial, evidence brought against him and the prosecutors who convicted him.
Parrish was convicted of killing 61-year-old Jeffrey Coudon after Coudon was scheduled to testify against Parrish in a robbery case. Parrish had allegedly robbed Coudon in March 2018.
In November of 2018, the Havre de Grace Police Department responded to an apartment at 200 N. Washington St. to find the 61-year-old suffering from gunshot wounds. Coudon died three days later.
Police took notice of Parrish when he was in jail on charges of robbing someone who lived in the same complex as Coudon, according to court documents, and moved to compare DNA taken from the murder scene to that collected in the robbery investigation. They also found that Parrish had made calls from the jail to his brother, Zeman. He allegedly told Zeman to go dispose of a backpack containing evidence, which led to Zeman’s arrest and subsequent conviction.
Henninger argued at trial that Zeman did not know the things he was disposing of were connected to the murder. He said Zeman only knew about the robbery.
“It is two complicated cases,” he said. "My client goes and gets the gun, thinking it was related to this robbery, not knowing it was related to the murder.”
Zeman is scheduled for sentencing on May 26. Henninger explained that the case has to go through sentencing before it could potentially be elevated to the Court of Special Appeals, the state’s immediate appellate court.
Parrish also said he would “100 percent” take his case to the Court of Appeals if he is not granted a new trial. His next scheduled appearance in court is for a Thursday motions hearing.
The first-degree murder charge Parrish faces carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Zeman faces a potential maximum sentence of 21 years.
The Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office did not wish to comment on Zeman’s motion for a new trial.