- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

A lone juror is threatening a hung jury in the trial of a homeless tree trimmer charged with killing a Germantown priest, according to the foreman of the Montgomery County jury.
The seven men and five women on the jury have yet to reach full agreement after 20 hours of deliberations. They are considering charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, felony murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, robbery and burglary.
The jury has asked several questions since getting the case Thursday, most of them dealing with intent. Intent is essential for conviction on the murder, robbery and first-degree burglary charges.
Yesterdays questions indicated that one juror believed there was evidence enough to convict for first-degree burglary, but that he would not go along with felony murder.
"I am troubled by a possible predisposition for a particular side and this juror would not be completely objective," the designated foreman wrote in a note to Circuit Judge Paul McGuckian.
Conviction on burglary or robbery charges would open the possibility for conviction on felony murder, which would mean that Monsignor Thomas Wells death occurred during the commission of another crime.
Monsignor Wells, 56, was found at 8 a.m. June 8 in his blood-stained rectory bedroom at Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown. Robert Lucas was arrested nine days later after police said the distinctive pattern on the treads on his boots matched footprints in the bedroom and bathroom.
Lucas, 26, admitted in his testimony that he stole more than $900 from a white envelope at the rectory, along with the priests wristwatch, two religious coins and a T-shirt to replace his own bloody Harley-Davidson shirt.
The questions about intent suggest consideration of Lucas defense that he killed Monsignor Wells because the priest made unwanted sexual advances toward him.
Public defenders Mary Sigfried and Brian D. Shefferman have said Lucas was invited into the rectory, asked about his life, and then asked to take part in sexual acts. They say convictions for manslaughter, with a 10-year maximum sentence, and fourth-degree burglary are acceptable.
Lucas testified that he typically drank as much as a case of beer after work each night. The night of the slaying, he said, he was drunk and had wet his pants, and he broke a window into the rectory intending to get cleaned up and sleep.
Under cross-examination, Lucas repeatedly answered that he could have left the rectory several times before the stabbing, but did not.
Lucas said he stabbed the priest with the black knife he carried on his waistband for work. The knife has never been found.
States Attorney Douglas F. Gansler originally considered seeking the death penalty for Lucas, but he changed his mind after Catholic officials and Mother Seton parishioners said they oppose the death penalty, as did Monsignor Wells.
If convicted of murder, Lucas could be sentenced to life in prison.


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