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Edgewood man who won new trial pleads guilty to 1979 robbery-murder

An Edgewood man, whose 34-year-old murder conviction as a teenager was thrown out on a controversial technicality, entered a guilty plea earlier this week in exchange for a somewhat reduced sentence.

Appearing in Harford County Circuit Court Monday before Judge Stephen Waldron, Bryan Keith Quickley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and armed robbery, taking a plea deal from prosecutors, who were prepared to go to trial starting Tuesday, Harford State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly said.

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Quickley was sentenced to life, with all but 50 years suspended. The sentence, however, will run backdated to 1979 when Quickley, who was then 16, was arrested for the robbery and slaying of Clarence Miller in Mr. Miller's Edgewood furniture and appliance store.

Cassilly said Quickley, 51, still should be in jail for a long time, "until he's pretty old." While the state's attorney conceded Quickley could conceivably get time off the sentence for good behavior or even be paroled at some point, "we have been told he will be in prison until 2025," because of a new conviction Quickley received while in prison for the Miller murder.

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In 1986, Quickley was found guilty of assault and attempted murder for an incident at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Gerry Shields, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, confirmed Thursday.

The sentence in that case was 12 years to run consecutively with the life sentence, Shields said. "My records don't show if the assault was against another inmate or an officer," he said.

Cassilly said the 1986 conviction essentially gives Quickley a 62-year sentence beginning in 1979, though both he and Quickley's lawyer conceded there's no clear-cut way to determine at this point how much he might serve. If he does get out of prison, Waldron's sentence also imposed five years of supervised probation.

"I thought it was a fair resolution," Shane Nolan, a Bel Air criminal lawyer who represented Quickly in the retrial, said of Monday's plea bargain and sentence.

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Nolan, however, said it is "an interesting question" how long Quickley might serve, given the uncertainties of how the Division of Corrections interprets sentences and applies credits to inmates.

"He was convicted again, but he has hope" he won't be in prison the rest of his life, he said.

Had Quickley gone to trial, Cassilly was prepared to call his two accomplices as witnesses, Quickley's younger brother, Kim Quickley, and Ronald Smith.

The trio were accused of robbing Mr. Miller's Center Furniture Store on Sept. 27, 1979, after Bryan Quickley had shot Mr. Miller, who was 69, twice with a .22 caliber handgun. Mr. Miller died four days later. Police said Bryan Quickley later told an acquaintance he shot Mr. Miller after he realized he would be able to recognize him.

Kim Quickley, who was 15, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, robbery and handgun violations, and received a life sentence. Last summer, he received a sentence modification to 40 years and was freed with good behavior credits.

Cassilly, who did not oppose the modification, said Kim Quickley signed a statement implicating his brother as the shooter and also agreed to testify at Bryan Quickley's retrial.

Smith, who was 17, was convicted of murder and robbery by a jury, but won a new trial on a technicality and was convicted by a second jury two years later, according to court records and newspaper accounts. Following a hearing in Harford Circuit Court Wednesday, Smith's life sentence was modified to time served and he will be released from prison, Cassilly said.

The state's attorney said Smith also had agreed to testify against Bryan Quickley, if the latter's case was retried. Cassilly said he thought the deals with both men were fair, given that the detectives who investigated the case had established neither was the shooter and that both men spent 35 years in jail, longer than many in similar circumstances.

"We did not have a lot of alternatives," he said, noting that several witnesses from the first Bryan Quickley trial have since either died or have no recollection of their testimony or would be unable to testify because of health problems. Much of the physical evidence has been destroyed, he said.

"We could have had people read transcripts from the earlier trial to the jury, but you just don't know how something like that is going to play out," he added.

Cassilly said he found one surviving member of Mr. Miller's family, a grandson who is a lawyer. "We kept in close contact and I believe he is pleased with the outcome," he said. The grandson could not be reached for comment.

Bryan Quickley won a new trial last year because of a 2012 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that judges had improperly instructed jurors in many cases from the 1960s through 1980. Quickly was convicted by a Harford jury in May 1980.

His case was one of five pending in Harford under the so-called Unger ruling, so named for a western Maryland man, Merle Unger, who had been convicted of killing a police officer, but eventually was successful in challenging a judge's instructions, standard for the time, that jurors could ignore the concept of reasonable doubt in deciding to convict. Though the Court of Appeals threw out Unger's conviction, he was retried and convicted a second time last year, and is again serving a life sentence.

Cassilly still has three murder cases pending from Unger rulings that he said once again Wednesday he intends to retry. Defendants in two of the cases, Peter Sutro Waine and John Henry Smith, were both convicted of killing two people.

Waine has a bail hearing scheduled later this month, and Cassilly said he will oppose him being freed while his retrial is pending. Smith has not sought to be released pending his retrial, but Cassilly has appeals pending in both cases and in the third, Rodney Lee Stevenson, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1977 for killing an Aberdeen cab driver in the 1960s.

In June, Francis Eugene Christian, Stevenson's co-defendant, was freed from jail, after Cassilly said he reached an agreement with Christian, who Cassilly says was not the shooter. Christian was resentenced to time served. Another co-defendant in the case died in prison, he said.

James Jeffrey Vernon, who was sentenced to life in prison for a 1978 first-degree rape conviction that was overturned on an Unger ruling, pleaded guilty in March 2013, was re-sentenced to time served and has been freed from prison, according to Cassilly.

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