Bernard L. Ward, whose murder conviction was overturned in 1992, has four witnesses ready to testify that he was more than 800 miles away when the victim was being stabbed and strangled, an Anne Arundel Circuit jury was told yesterday.
Mr. Ward, who is being retried in the 1988 murder of Eddie Brewer, had taken a friend to a chiropractor, had gone to a Social Security office with his wife and had applied for a job -- all in Tallahassee, Fla. -- at the time of the killing, his lawyer said yesterday.
On Dec. 12, 1988, about a month after the murder, the body of the 25-year-old Baltimore man was found in an abandoned house off Crain Highway and West Furnace Branch Road in Glen Burnie.
County police Officer Paul B. Deinlein told jurors that he discovered the nude body about midnight in the basement of the boarded-up house, which he had entered in search of a runaway teen-ager.
Mr. Ward was arrested four days later in Tallahassee after three witnesses told police they had seen him near the scene of the murder that night.
Mr. Ward confessed to police and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, cutting short his trial, after prosecutors offered him a life sentence instead of life without parole.
But Mr. Ward won a retrial in November 1992, when Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. ruled that Mr. Ward's former counsel, George Kariotis, was so incompetent that his client was denied his constitutional rights when he decided to plead guilty.
Mr. Kariotis has since been disbarred for unrelated matters.
This case is being tried before Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr.
In opening statements yesterday, one of Mr. Ward's lawyers told jury of six men and six women that he will show that the confession was coerced, that the witnesses who placed Mr. Ward at the scene are mistaken and that Mr. Ward was busy elsewhere at the time of the murder.
"At the time of the murder of Eddie Brewer, Bernie Ward was drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in Tallahassee, Fla., 800 miles away," said Fred Heyman, Mr. Ward's attorney.
Mr. Heyman said he will present testimony from Linda Wilson, who shared a house with Mr. Ward in Florida and "saw Mr. Ward every night" of the week when the murder occurred.
He said Mr. Ward's former wife, Karen Stewart, will testify that the day of the murder they went together to a Social Security office in Florida to apply for benefits for their epileptic son.
And, he said, a former supervisor will testify that the night before the murder Mr. Ward applied for a job as a mason that had been advertised in that day's newspaper.
"We feel an innocent man has been wrongly convicted," Mr. Heyman said
In opening statements yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney William C. Mulford II said three witnesses saw the accused near Mr. Brewer's burning Camaro, which had been set afire in a parking lot about 50 yards from the house where the body was found.
Mr. Mulford said that on the night of the murder Mr. Ward went to a gay bar in Baltimore and planned to perform a sex act on Mr. Brewer for cash.
But, an accomplice who accompanied Mr. Brewer and Mr. Ward on a drive to a secluded spot, "went crazy" and stabbed Mr. Brewer 25 times, Mr. Mulford said.
The alleged accomplice was never caught.
After he was picked up by detectives in Tallahassee, Mr. Ward confessed to the murder, providing details -- such as the stab wounds -- that only the killer would know, Mr. Mulford said.
He discounted Mr. Ward's claims that the confession was coerced.
"The evidence will show not only was Mr. Ward present at the time of the murder, he was an active participant in the cold-blooded execution of Eddie Brewer," he said.