Michael E. Marr, lawyer in notable cases, dies

Michael E. Marr "was a firm believer in redemption," his daughter said.
Michael E. Marr "was a firm believer in redemption," his daughter said. (HANDOUT)

Michael E. Marr, a trial attorney who handled prominent cases during a long career, died of stroke complications Jan. 19 at the Multi Medical Center in Towson. He was 77 and lived in Arcadia in Northeast Baltimore.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Silver Spring, he was the son of Royle A. Marr, a home construction contractor, and his wife, Julia Sheehan, a registered nurse. He was a 1959 graduate of Archbishop John Carroll High in Washington and earned a foreign service degree from Georgetown University. He was vice president of the school’s student body and an officer in the Reserve Officers Training Corps.


A graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, he worked in the District of Columbia Tax Court and served four years in the Air Force as a judge advocate general based in Riverside, Calif.

Patricia Knott Smyth had a major role in creation of the Helix Health System and the subsequent creation of MedStar.

Mr. Marr moved to Baltimore in 1971 and became an assistant U.S. attorney. He handled the prosecution of Thomas E. Southerland, who posed as a member of the Army and was accused of hiding heroin inside the body bags of American soldiers who died in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The case was widely covered by national news outlets.

In 1974 he left the federal attorney’s office to open a private practice. He represented William A. Rogers, one of the co-defendants in the trial of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel. Mr. Marr also represented state senator and Baltimore liquor commissioner Joseph J. Staszak on a mail fraud and tax charge.

In 1981 he joined another attorney, Richard D. Bennett, who is now a federal judge. Their legal practice, Marr & Bennett, was located in downtown Baltimore. They practiced throughout the decade.

“He was enormously talented guy on his feet in the courtroom,” said Judge Bennett. “He had a great Irish wit and charm and was a character.”

Family members said that Mr. Marr was approached by Mary S.Williams to represent her husband, “Little” Melvin Williams, who was at the time serving a lengthy sentence in a federal prison for drug trafficking. In the 1970s Little Melvin Williams led a heroin sales organization that employed as many as 200 street-level dealers throughout Baltimore.

Mr. Marr took the case and spent Saturdays visiting Melvin Williams at Fairton Federal Corrections Institution in New Jersey.

Baltimore native and noted educator Patricia "Trish" Lavin Ostermann of died of lung cancer Dec. 29. The Orrtanna, Pa., resident was 78.

“My father was a firm believer in redemption,” said his daughter, Emily Marr Johnson. “It took him some time to convince Melvin that he could redeem himself and begin a new life. In the mid-1990s he successfully petitioned the court that the sentence handed down to Melvin was too harsh and Melvin was granted a release in 1996.”


Mr. Marr also defended Little Melvin Williams in 1999 after he was sent back to prison on a parole violation charge. Mr. Marr argued successfully in 2003 that Mr. Williams did not qualify as a federal career offender and won his release from prison.

“Mike was like family,” said Mrs. Williams. “He told me and Melvin, ‘I will not stop working on this case until we get you free.’ ”

Mrs. Williams said that when her husband was terminally ill at their home and in a hospital, Mr. Marr visited him and prayed with him. “He never hung up a phone without saying, “I love you,’ ” she said.

In 1995 Mr. Marr married Susan L. Neukam, a paralegal, who worked with him in his law practice. They and his children assisted needy families who lived in rural communities near Cambridge. They brought food and assisted with purchasing prescriptions.

In the 1970s Mr. Marr completed five marathons. He was an avid sports fan and had season tickets to both the Orioles and Colts at Memorial Stadium — where he often joined his brother, radio commentator Tom Marr, in the press box — and later became a Ravens fan. He was also a fan of boxing.

He traveled widely and vacationed at Narragansett, R.I., and Carmel by the Sea, Calif.


A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, 3515 Harford Road, where he was a member.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son, Michael E Marr Jr. of Wexford, Pa.; and a grandson. His wife, Susan Marr, died in 2012. A son, Eric David Marr died in 2006. In 1964 he married Kathryn Crowley. They divorced in 1982. His brother, Tom Marr, died in 2016.