Defense attorneys for Brian Jordan, charged with the April 1990 murder of a Columbia woman, claim that county prosecutors misled Jordan into believing that the state was considering offering him a plea bargain. The lawyers say the prosecution withheld critical information relating to Jordan's role in the crime.

Jordan's attorneys, Philip Dantes and James Maggio, argued Monday at a pretrial hearing before Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. for dismissal of the state's case against Jordan based on the lack of a speedy trial and prosecutorial misconduct.

Jordan, 24, and Kevin Briscoe, 26, were arrested in May 1990 in connection with the stabbing death of Pamela Mary Barker in her home on Basket Ring Road. Briscoe was convicted last month of first-degree murder. In Jordan's trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 24, the state will be seeking the death penalty.

Jordan's attorneys' argument for dismissal centers on a statement given to prosecutors by Temesgen Melaku, who admitted driving Briscoe and Jordan to Barker's home. Melaku, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, said in a statement in February 1991 that it was Jordan who stabbed Barker.

Melaku testified for the state at Briscoe's trial. As part of his plea agreement, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years for his involvement in the murder.

"Melaku had given a statement that the knife was in both hands (Briscoe and Jordan) and ultimately was in Brian Jordan's hands when it was driven into the chest of Ms. Barker," Jordan's attorney Philip Dantes testified at the pretrial hearing.

Jordan's defense attorneys say that prosecutors did not make them aware of Melaku's statement until 10 months later, in December. In the meantime, Jordan's attorneys said they had agreed to postpone the case at the state's request, under the assumption that a plea for Jordan was still a possibility.

In March 1991, when the defense agreed to postpone the trial, the attorneys knew only about Melaku's previous statements, in which he identified Briscoe as the killer.

"There was no way they could use Brian Jordan against Briscoe if the witness they already cut adeal with directly contradicted Jordan on the most important elementof the crime," Maggio said.

Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage, who is prosecuting the Jordan case and won the conviction against Briscoe, declined to comment on why Melaku's last statement was not provided to Jordan's defense attorneys until December.

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