ANNAPOLIS -- More than a decade after being sentenced to die for the murder of an 82-year-old woman during a robbery at a Pikesville home, Eugene S. Colvin-el went to court yesterday seeking a new lease on life.
Lawyers for Colvin-el, whose 1981 death sentence was overturned in 1988 by the state Court of Appeals, told an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury that prosecutors seeking the death penalty would be unable to prove that the 47-year-old West Baltimore man stabbed Lena S. Buckman to death on Sept. 9, 1980.
Yes, Colvin-el's fingerprints were found on a broken window pane at the Pikesville house, defense attorney Janet Hart said. But, she added, "There will not be one fingerprint, not one fiber to show he was even in the home, no evidence to show he ever held the murder weapon."
The defense attorney then named other suspects, saying that two men who had been seen near the murder scene in the 6800 block of Cherokee Drive were convicted of burglary that same day less than 1 mile away.
Colvin-el's guilt or innocence, however, is not at issue -- his 1981 conviction for first-degree murder was not overturned -- but much of the testimony at his sentencing hearing is expected to revisit the events surrounding Mrs. Buckman's death on her 82nd birthday.
A former Baltimore resident who moved to Florida in 1973, she was stabbed 25 times during the robbery, in which her daughter's jewelry was stolen.
Marjorie Surrell testified yesterday that her mother, a widow, had come from her Cocoa Beach home to Pikesville to celebrate the Jewish New Year.
Mickey Norman, an assistant state's attorney for Baltimore County, yesterday outlined to jurors much of the same circumstantial evidence that was used to convict Colvin-el in 1981.
He said that police, initially stymied in the case, matched the fingerprint found on the broken pane of a basement door to Colvin-el's prints. He said Colvin-el pawned a wristwatch and a pocket watch taken during the robbery at the Surrell home within days of the incident.
And he said that Colvin-el, who had an arrest record for burglaries dating to 1960, had been on parole for a daytime break-in when Mrs. Buckman was killed. "I think you will find the circumstances are very similar, except in this case he killed his one and only eyewitness," Mr. Norman said.
In ordering a new sentencing in Colvin-el's trial, the Court of Appeals cited a Supreme Court decision that found flaws in Maryland's sentencing procedure in capital cases. Colvin-el, who has spent most of the last 11 years in the Maryland Penitentiary, is now being held at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center for his resentencing, which is expected to take at least a week.
The original trial was moved to Anne Arundel County when Colvin-el requested a change of venue, which is permissible in a capital case.
Mrs. Surrell, 67, was the first witness called yesterday by the prosecution. After recounting the day of her mother's death, she said "little things," such as the sight of paramedics or a honeydew melon, her mother's last meal, still bother her.
Most troubling, she said, are the days leading to the Jewish New Year. "Every year when that holiday approaches, it's like a countdown to hell," she said.
Asked whether she favored the death penalty for Colvin-el, Mrs. Surrell said, "I really do think it's appropriate under the circumstances."