Editorial in the The Dispatch - November 9, 2007
Online link: http://www.mdcoastdispatch.com/ocean-city-maryland-news-archives/2007/11/09/Letter-To-The-Editor/Voices-From-Our-Readers
On the morning of Sept. 14, 1990, a naked male intruder with a knife awakened a woman in her Ocean City bedroom. He tied her hands to the bed with shoestrings taken from her own shoes. For some unknown reason the man fled. The very next morning a woman residing just one block away was awakened to an almost identical experience of a knife-bearing nude male intruder in her bedroom. Again, the woman’s hands were tied to the bed with shoestrings taken from her own shoes. This time, the victim was raped and injured.
Michael Austin, who had a history of breaking and entry and assault with a knife, was a resident of the same building where the first incident occurred and was seen in the vicinity shortly after the second crime. The rape victim identified Austin as her attacker. Three failed lie detector tests and a multitude of other evidence also pointed to Austin as the assailant. Inexplicably, after being held for 67 days charges against Austin were dropped.
Three years later, in response to considerable public pressure but with no probable cause or evidence except that he was in Ocean City at the time of the crimes and that he was convicted of burglary in Florida, Brian R. Keirsey was charged and booked. This occurred even though he had the perfect alibi for the initial crime; he was in jail. If, as the evidence clearly indicates, the same individual committed the two crimes, Brian could not be the perpetrator. The fingerprints at neither scene matched Brian’s. Also the victim’s descriptions of the perpetrator were not remotely similar to Brian.
Lacking evidence, other than a purported DNA match, the State offered Brian a plea bargain. In exchange for a plea of guilty to burglary, the state would drop all other charges including first-degree rape. Unwilling to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, Brian refused. The jury trial began on May 9, 1994 with Judge Theodore R. Eschenburg presiding. Throughout the trial the judge’s demeanor, which apparently derived from Brian’s refusal of the plea offer, was clearly prejudicial in favor of the prosecution. Brian was defended by public defender, Walter Burton Anderson. The defense was incredibly poor. Critical witnesses were not called. Even though visible DNA autorads claimed to implicate Brian were not available and the DNA results were suspect because of inconsistency with standards, sampling and experimental errors, a hand drawn depiction “cartoon” of the autorads was used as decisive evidence to convict Brian to an illegal sentence of two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole in the first DNA-based trial in Worcester County. There are indications the judge may have influenced the jury’s rapid conclusion at a luncheon he sponsored prior to the verdict.
The recorder found the transcript of the trial to contain 38 pages of errors totaling over 1,000 lines of incorrect testimony much of which he stated: “may be crucial for the reviewing authority of the record.” Two appellate courts reviewed Brian’s case; however, they were given access to only the flawed records, therefore, not surprisingly, upheld the earlier trial. Improperly stored DNA samples, critically needed to establish Brian’s innocence, are now contaminated and useless. On May 29, 2007 an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals was denied without explanation. Brian has filed a “Motion for reconsideration” and is pursuing remedies in federal court with a Writ of Habeas Corpus that details numerous violations of his constitutional rights.
Brian has now been in prison for more than 14 years with a life sentence for a crime I am convinced he did not commit. Our judicial system is not always perfect and sometimes it is even corrupt as appears the case in Snow Hill court. Somehow this dreadful miscarriage of justice must be corrected. The remainder of Brian’s life must be saved as quickly as possible.