A man serving a 30-year sentence for the near-fatal 1990 beating of an Annapolis tavern manager was unfairly convicted because Anne Arundel County prosecutors withheld crucial evidence from the defense, a federal appeals court said yesterday.
The 2-1 ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a U.S. District judge in Baltimore that prosecutors "suppressed exculpatory, material evidence" that a witness changed his story, which could have tipped a jury toward finding Brady G. Spicer not guilty. It reversed the lower court finding that faulted Spicer's lawyer's performance.
The ruling upholds Judge Peter J. Messitte's order in December that erased Spicer's conviction. Retry Spicer within four months or free him unconditionally, the judge had ordered.
"I'll take that from them," the 43-year-old Annapolis man said from the county jail yesterday. "I can see the end of the road now, something I have not been able to see for 7 1/2 years now."
He learned of the ruling from a jail supervisor while watching "The Young and the Restless," part of his afternoon soap-opera routine. Spicer claimed to have been at home watching soap operas when Francis "Bones" Denvir was attacked Feb. 22, 1990, in his second-floor office at Armadillo's restaurant.
The attacker broke every bone in the restaurateur's head in a beating that has left Denvir with permanent injuries. More than $1,000 was left on Denvir's desk. Denvir, who never saw his attacker, could not be reached yesterday.
Spicer has maintained his innocence and this spring took and passed a lie detector test at the behest of his attorneys.
This is the fourth case in less than two years in which judges have faulted Anne Arundel County prosecutors for illegally withholding evidence from the defense.