The sentencing of a third man convicted of killing an Aberdeen taxi driver has been postponed to give the Circuit Court judge and attorneys time to decide if the killer's constitutional rights could be violated because the state had sought a death penalty.
Stanley J. Baczeski Jr., 30, was convicted Feb. 23 after a jury deliberated 7 1/2 hours. The jury stopped short of finding him guilty of acting as a principal in the premeditated murder of 42-year-old Elvert Jones, a driver for the Victory Cab Co. of Aberdeen.
That finding meant Baczeski, of the 200 block of Valley Road, would not be sentenced to death, but he would not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years since the state had sought the death penalty.
Laurie McKinnon, a public defender representing Baczeski, argued Friday that her client's rights will be violated unless the judge grants her motion to dismiss the state's notice of seeking the death penalty.
Ms. McKinnon contended that the jury's finding should override the automatic 25-years-without-parole issue.
Even setting aside the issue of parole possibilities, Baczeski could receive a life sentence for first-degree murder and a second life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder. He also could receive 20 years for the robbery, 10 years for conspiracy and 30 for kidnapping.
Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill asked attorneys to decide whether to continue debate on the issue or return later this week or next to decide the matter so that he can proceed with sentencing.
Joseph Meadows, the assistant state's attorney, agreed to the delay after questioning whether a convicted murderer had rights to violate. He strongly opposed references to the sentences of the two other men convicted in the crime.
Clifton Paul Brinegar of Bel Air, 19, pleaded guilty Dec. 2 to robbery and first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. His stepbrother, Billy Joe Brinegar of Aberdeen, 23, pleaded guilty to the crimes Jan. 21. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 56 years.
The Brinegars, Mr. Meadows said, pleaded guilty. They gave up something and got something in return, life in prison rather than the chance of facing the death penalty. Baczeski, Mr. Meadows contended, chose to stand trial and face the possible death sentence.
That the jury did not agree that Baczeski was a principal in the crime does not mean the state was wrong in seeking the death penalty, he argued.
Judge Whitfill did allow a victim's impact statement from Carolyn Iturralde, sister of Elvert Jones. After hearing her tearful account of the devasting effect her brother's death has had on her, her sons and Mr. Jones' son, Judge Whitfill apologized for not anticipating the arguments on the legal point.
"I know how you must feel, the loss, the pain. . . . I didn't want you to have to come back and face this all over again," the judge said.