An Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury was expected to begin deliberating today over the fate of Bernard L. Ward, the 33-year-old man being retried for the 1988 murder of Edward Brewer.
Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr. excused the jury late yesterday afternoon after the panel of six men and six women said they would prefer to return today rather than begin deliberations at 3:45 p.m., when closing arguments were completed.
Mr. Ward, formerly of Glen Burnie, is being retried in the slaying of Mr. Brewer, 25, whose nude body was found about midnight Dec. 12, 1988, in the basement of a boarded-up, abandoned house along Crain Highway in Glen Burnie. Mr. Brewer, of Baltimore, had been stabbed and strangled about a month before, according to testimony.
Prosecutors are asking jurors to focus on three witnesses and statements Mr. Ward made to Tallahassee, Fla., sheriff's detectives after he was picked up.
But Mr. Ward's attorneys say the statements were coerced and are asking jurors to focus instead on four defense witnesses who testified that he was in Florida at the time of the murder.
"It's more ethically and socially responsible to let one crime go unsolved than to put an innocent man in jail," said Fred Heyman of Bel Air, Mr. Ward's attorney, in closing arguments yesterday.
But Assistant State's Attorney William Mulford said the evidence showed an acquittal would not result in freeing an innocent man.
"I tell you, it's worse to let a first-degree murderer walk the streets of Anne Arundel County and the state of Maryland," he said.
Mr. Ward pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 1989. But he won a retrial in 1992 when a Circuit Court judge ruled that his former lawyer was so incompetent that Mr. Ward was not fully informed when he decided to plead guilty and accept a prosecutor's offer of a life sentence rather than life without parole.
Mr. Ward was arrested in Tallahassee four days after the body was found. Three witnesses had picked his photograph out of a police photo lineup and placed him at the murder scene.
Prosecutors say Mr. Ward met Mr. Brewer in a gay bar in Baltimore on the night of the murder and rode with him to the abandoned house. They say an accomplice choked Mr. Brewer, hit him on the head and stabbed him about 25 times.
The accomplice has never been found, prosecutors said.