For five years, Bernard L. Ward has been behind bars for a murder he denies committing.
Today, after five days of testimony, an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury will decide whether it agrees with him.
In testimony yesterday, defense attorneys presented testimony from a handwriting expert, Lyndal Schneyfelt of Alexandria, Va., who said that legal papers filled out in the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla., on the day of the slaying were in Mr. Ward's handwriting.
Mr. Ward's ex-wife, Karen Stewart of Baltimore, had testified that on Nov. 16, 1988, Mr. Ward accompanied her to the courthouse in Tallahassee, where he filled out papers petitioning the court to award her custody of her two children by another man.
She said that she, not Mr. Ward, signed the papers because they were her children.
Mr. Ward is being retried in the slaying of Edward Brewer, whose nude body was found about midnight Dec. 12, 1988, in the basement of a boarded-up house along Crain Highway in Glen Burnie. The body was found by an Anne Arundel County police officer looking for a runaway teen-ager.
Mr. Brewer had been strangled and stabbed about 25 times, Assistant State's Attorney William Mulford said.
Mr. Ward, 33, formerly of Glen Burnie, was arrested in Tallahassee four days later after three witnesses pointed out his photograph to police and said that they had seen him near the scene of the slaying.
Mr. Ward pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 1989, cutting short his trial after prosecutors offered him a life sentence instead of life without parole.
He won a retrial in November 1992, when Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. ruled that Mr. Ward's former counsel acted so incompetently that his client was denied his constitutional rights.
In the retrial before Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr., Mr. Mulford and Assistant State's Attorney Ron Naditch, who prosecuted the original case, have emphasized Mr. Ward's statement to Florida sheriff's detectives, in which he provided details that prosecutors say only the killer would have known.
Mr. Ward's new defense attorneys, Fred Heyman and Carl Schlaich of Bel Air, have presented a battery of witnesses, including Mr. Ward's former wife, a Social Security clerk, a Florida court clerk and his former boss, all of whom say that he was in Florida at the time of the killing.
The defense has argued that Mr. Ward's statement to police was coerced and that the witnesses who placed Mr. Ward at the scene were mistaken.