Maryland's highest court yesterday narrowly upheld the death sentence for Anthony Grandison who, from his Baltimore jail cell, sent a gunman to a Pikesville motel to kill two witnesses scheduled to testify against him in a 1983 federal drug trial.
By a 4-3 vote, the Court of Appeals struck down all 29 arguments Grandison and his lawyer raised, including claims that he was unfairly denied a lawyer and that an FBI agent's testimony unfairly prejudiced jurors.
Judge Robert L. Karwacki wrote that Agent Kevin Foley should not have been allowed to testify about his beliefs about Grandison's guilt.
The opinion said the error was harmless because other witnesses duplicated the agent's testimony.
The opinion also said Somerset County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Long properly denied Grandison a new lawyer.
Grandison had made the request eight days before his sentencing.
"We must conclude that Grandison did not have a meritorious reason for discharging his counsel and, therefore, that the trial court's actions in this case did not violate Grandison's right to counsel," Judge Karwacki said.
The dissenting judges wanted to give Grandison a new sentencing because they said the FBI agent's testimony may have unfairly influenced the jury.
"It is understandable that many people may deem Anthony Grandison to be a worthless wretch who deserves to be executed by the state. What I find difficult to understand is a holding that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the error in admitting Agent Foley's testimony in no way influenced the jury's verdict," Judge Theodore G. Bloom, a Court of Special Appeals judge assigned to the case, said in a 38-page dissent.
Ira Mickenberg, Grandison's lawyer, said he likely will appeal the ruling to the U.S. District Court and to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gwynn X. Kinsey, senior counsel for the Maryland Attorney General's capital litigation section, said it could be several years before Grandison, one of 13 Maryland inmates awaiting execution, exhausts his appeals.