The Star Democrat
Judge denies motions in Wilford case
EASTON — Talbot County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Kehoe denied the petitions of writs of actual innocence and motions to reopen postconviction proceedings for Jonathan D. Smith Sr. and David R. Faulkner who were convicted in the Jan. 5, 1987, murder of Adeline Wilford.
In his ruling, Kehoe said the court was not persuaded newly discovered evidence would have resulted in a different verdict.
Faulkner, 47, of Easton and Smith, 47, of Ridgely, were both convicted 16 years ago after the case went cold for nearly 13 years, when a
reward for information on Wilford’s murder prompted a witness — Smith’s aunt, Beverly Haddaway — to come forward to police.
A third defendant, Ray E. Andrews Sr., who was 16 years old at the time of the murder, testified against Smith and Faulkner and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary as part of a plea agreement.
Faulkner was convicted of premeditated murder, involuntary manslaughter, daytime housebreak and theft under $ 300 and was sentenced to life in prison. Smith was also sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and daytime burglary.
Kehoe granted Faulkner and Smith a five- day evidentiary hearing in October 2015 so he could decide whether they deserved a new trial or were wrongfully convicted. The hearing occurred in April of this year.
Faulkner and Smith sought new trials and submitted writs of actual innocence based on information their attorneys said was new evidence.
Smith and Faulkner’s attorneys argued that Haddaway manipulated police and prosecutors, and sought to have charges against her grandson dropped in exchange for her testimony in the case. The defense lawyers also suggested Haddaway first came forward years earlier with information in an attempt to have charges against her son dropped.
According to court documents, even with these concerns brought up by the defense attorneys, her testimony was corroborated by testimony from Susan Fitzhugh and Andrews.
Kehoe also heard arguments from Faulkner and
Smith’s lawyers on the introduction of palm prints found in Wilford’s home that matched those of Ty A. Brooks, 49, of Easton, who is currently an inmate in state prison.
Ty Brooks has been matched with seven latent prints lifted from Wilford’s home, according to testimony provided by Alexander Mankevich, a latent print examiner with the Maryland State Police Crime Lab in Pikesville.
Mankevich said palm prints lifted from a washing machine in Wilford’s home, as well as a window identified as the point of entry in the 1987 crime, returned an identification for Brooks in February 2014.
In his ruling, Kehoe said it is possible that those prints actually tie Brooks to the house the day before the murder occurred. Mankevich said there was a distortion in the print, possibly caused by rain, and Daniel Keene, a witness from Trappe, said it had rained the day before the murder.
More evidence brought forth by the petitioners to prove Faulkner and Smith’s innocence included a statement by Keene, who said he saw a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme at Wilford’s home on the day of the murder.
However, Kehoe said the testimony indicated that Keene’s view of the car could have been obstructed by trees and in order to get a good look at the car he would have had to tilt his head at a 90 degree angle while driving or have looked at it in his rearview mirror.
Also, the defense alleged that William Clarence “Boozie” Thomas Jr., had confessed involvement in the 1987 murder to James Edward Brooks Jr., who testified during the April hearing.
But, Kehoe said, Thomas’ confession was contradicted by forensic evidence at the scene.