Inmate gets additional 3 years for written threat to governor; Jury rejects contention by defendant that another prisoner sent the letter


A prisoner serving a life sentence plus 46 years got an additional three-year sentence yesterday after he was convicted of threatening the life of Gov. Parris N. Glendening in a letter.

David Clinton Berry, 29, denied sending the threatening letter, which bore the name of a fellow prisoner at the Maryland Correction Institute Annex at Jessup.

Berry said it would be out of character for him to "do something as juvenile as" make a threat in someone else's name. He said the incident stemmed from disputes between him and the other prisoner.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury convicted the former Capitol Heights resident after deliberating an hour.

Prosecutor Sandra Foy Howell and defense attorney Jonathan Gladstone told jurors the letter might have been written by one prisoner to get back at the other.

Glendening said in 1995 that he would block parole for anyone serving a life sentence. Prisoner Howard Hines, 44, of Alabama, whose name was on the letter, is serving two life sentences plus 10 years for murder and rape convictions in Prince George's County. Hines denied writing the letter.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner, who expressed surprise that the maximum sentence for threatening to kill a state official was only three years, promptly gave that to Berry.

Berry is serving terms for rape, armed robbery and related offenses in Charles and Prince George's counties.

"The question is, does a lifer, or a life-plus-20-person, see any light at the end of the tunnel," said Gladstone. He said he will appeal.

On June 26, 1997, the governor's office received a letter that said, "When I get out I'm going to kill you. If I don't, I will have you killed if your in office or not." It also threatened the governor's wife, Frances, and their family.

Howell told jurors in closing arguments that Berry sent the letter because he was angry at Glendening or Hines.

Jurors got a glimpse into prison life from testimony by prisoners who talked about throwing full milk cartons and other items during a lockdown that followed a disturbance in May 1997.

Testifying Thursday, Berry said Hines was "disrespectful" to him and "out of line" in remarks he made during the tense lockdown.

The handwriting in the letter matched Berry's, Maryland State Police handwriting analyst David Sexton testified.

Gladstone argued that Hines made his handwriting look like Berry's.

Pub Date: 1/30/99

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