Judge: Rapist must be re-offered plea deal

Aug. 3, 2010 at 1:38 PM
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BALTIMORE, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A federal judge says a convicted child rapist in Maryland should be released, a decision Baltimore prosecutors say they will appeal.

John Joseph Merzbacher, in prison for 15 years, must be given a chance to accept a 10-year plea bargain deal that was supposed to have been offered to him in 1994 -- an oversight that violated his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel, federal Appellate Judge Andre M. Davis ruled.

Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy pledged Monday to preserve justice "for the victims," and the Maryland attorney general's office promised to appeal the ruling, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Merzbacher, a former teacher at a Catholic school accused of terrorizing dozens of children, would be released if given the plea deal, legal experts say.

It's a chilling thought for some of Merzbacher's former students, who considered themselves safe after he was convicted of raping student Elizabeth Ann Murphy in the mid-1970s and sentenced to four life terms, the report said.

Several said they would reopen their closed cases, which were dropped after Merzbacher's 1995 conviction, the Sun reported.

There is no statute of limitations for criminal felony offenses, so old cases against Merzbacher could be reopened or new cases could be filed, attorney Joanne Suder, who represents 14 people who claimed Merzbacher molested them, said.

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