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A man serving life plus 295 1/2 years for the 2006 murder of Correctional Officer Jeffery Wroten was allowed to request a review of his sentence last year, then failed to meet a deadline to file it.
Howard County Circuit Court Judge Timothy J. McCrone heard Brandon T. Morris’s post-conviction relief relief hearing in September 2018. On Oct. 17, McCrone let Morris file for review of his sentence by a three-judge panel within 30 days. That deadline passed in late November.
“It does not appear Mr. Morris filed [with] the three judge panel. He does not have any further post conviction rights,” Initia Lettau, deputy chief attorney for the Post Conviction Defender Division of the Office of the Public Defender, wrote in an email this week.
“He flat-out missed it,” Washington County State’s Attorney Charles P. Strong said recently. He argued the state’s opposition to Morris’s motion for sentence review at the September hearing.
Morris claimed in his post-conviction relief motion that his attorney in his 2008 trial was ineffective for failing to file an application of review of his sentence by a three-judge panel following the verdict. Morris also claimed his attorney failed to consult with him about filing an application for review of sentence.
At the Sept. 20 hearing, Morris testified he had no recollection of his trial attorney telling him he could ask a panel of judges to review the sentence or that he knew about that option.
McCrone ruled in October that Morris was entitled to file a belated application for review of his sentence, as “there is no way to definitely conclude that a review panel would not have provided (Morris) with a lesser sentence.”
A three-judge panel could have ordered Morris to serve a reduced sentence or kept the sentence. Increasing the sentence also is an option for a panel, but Morris is already serving the maximum sentence allowed.
Wroten, 44, a father of five, was killed on Jan. 26, 2006, while guarding Morris, who was serving a sentence at Roxbury Correctional Institution for robbery, assault and handgun convictions.
Morris was taken to the former Washington County Hospital for treatment of a self-inflicted injury. While there, he assaulted Wroten, took his weapon and shot him, then took a hospital visitor hostage and carjacked a cab at gunpoint before being captured.
Morris was granted a change of venue for his trial to Howard County. He was found guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed carjacking and other crimes connected to Wroten’s murder and an attempted escape from the hospital.