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Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, criminal defense attorney honored for his service, dies

Arcangelo Tuminelli successfully defended six state and three federal death penalty cases.
Arcangelo Tuminelli successfully defended six state and three federal death penalty cases. (BARBARA HADDOCK TAYLOR)

Arcangelo M. “Arcky” Tuminelli, a criminal defense attorney who was honored for his service in successfully defending death penalty clients, died April 27 of complications of heart disease and COPD at his home in Mount Washington. He was 79.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Pimlico, he was the son of Stephen Tuminelli, who owned and operated a service station, and Louise Glorioso, a homemaker and bank worker. He attended Mergenthaler High School.

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“As a young man he overcame a drug dependency and moved on with his life,” said his wife, Marian Hwang, who is also an attorney.

In a 1972 Evening Sun article, Mr. Tuminelli described his drug dependence and how he was then working to change his life. He had enrolled at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and would soon receive a master’s degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.

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“Arcky was adept with numbers and was an accounting clerk for the Man Alive drug treatment program and later, as a clerk at a law firm,” his wife said.

She also said, “He was self-motivated, and he knew that he needed to improve himself and to get more education. He also had a daughter and he knew he needed to provide for her.”

Mr. Tuminelli soon established himself in his field.

“He was animated in the courtroom. He was definitely not someone who would be boring to people on the jury,” said Andrew Norman, a former assistant U.S. attorney from the Baltimore office. “As a cross examiner, he was skillful and could get under the skin of some of the government’s witnesses. This was what he wanted. I had to admire him for it, even though he was damaging the government’s case.”

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He also said, “He was colorful in his choice of words. He had a way about him of zealously representing his clients without being obnoxious.”

Mr. Norman recalled a star witness in a drug case becoming so irritated by Mr. Tuminelli that she shoved a witness stand microphone aside and stormed out of the courtroom as FBI agents trailed her.

He joined the firm of Tydings and Rosenberg and beginning in 1984 became a sole practitioner with an office on Calvert Street in Mount Vernon.

“He was known as the Professor,” said a friend, William Purpura, a Baltimore attorney. “He wore a bow tie to court and had a taste for expensive shoes. As impeccably as he was dressed, he prepared a case the same way. He was hardworking and an extremely intelligent man. He successfully defended six state death penalty cases and three federal death penalty cases. None of his clients received the ultimate penalty of death.”

“Arcky was a genuine person,” said a close friend, Ron Kurland, a Baltimore attorney. “What you saw was what you got. He was a gentleman who cared for his clients. He took pride in victories. He took pride in all his work. He put his heart and soul into every case, even in a little district house.”

He retired in 2019.

His legal colleagues gave Mr. Tuminelli an honor for defending persons charged in horrific crimes.

That award, the 2004 John Adams Award, was bestowed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in recognition of “extraordinary service for representing indigents as a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel.”

The Sun, in describing Mr. Tuminelli’s award, said, “The clientele of the award’s recipients is not particularly sympathetic: There are murderers, snipers, various characters of an urban nightmare.”

During his career he represented many high-profile parties.

He was part of the defense team for Benjamin and Erika Sifrit, a Pennsylvania couple convicted of murdering a pair of Ocean City tourists.

A Sun article said Mr. Tuminelli was among the last people to talk to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Luna, who was found stabbed to death in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 2003.

“About 9 p.m. Wednesday, [Mr. Tuminelli] said, he got a call at home from Luna’s cellphone. The prosecutor said he was going back to his office in the federal courthouse to complete the paperwork for the plea deals, and he said he would try to send the finished agreements by fax to the lawyers by morning.”

He also defended Kevin G. Johns, a prison inmate accused of strangling another inmate aboard a Division of Correction bus.

In 1995 Mr. Tuminelli joined the board of the Man Alive addiction treatment center.

“His mind never stopped,” said Karen Reese, the center’s director. “He found great joy in challenging a situation, then making it better. He was a one-of-a-kind person. He had the brightest legal mind, but it was a mind that had common sense too. Any guidance he gave was spot-on.”

Survivors include his wife of 37 years; two daughters, Patrice Dirican of Bel Air and Catherine Tuminelli of Mount Washington; a sister, Julia Catherine Tuminelli Simmons of Granite Falls, North Carolina; and a grandson.

Services are private.

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