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Appeals Court Overturns Conviction

November 30, 2001 GMT

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) _ An appeals court on Friday overturned the murder conviction of a bail bondsman serving two life sentences for hiring a prostitute to kill his wife.

Dean Pantazes was sentenced last December for arranging the murder of his wife, Clara. She was shot in the garage of the couple’s home by Jermel Chambers in March 2000. Chambers, a transvestite, claimed to have been paid $11,000 and pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence.

Prosecutors said Pantazes ordered the killing because his wife was considering divorcing him and he feared it would be costly.

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The Court of Special Appeals ruled that the trial judge should have declared a mistrial because jurors may have been influenced by improper testimony. Chambers testified about taking a lie-detector test, but the test was never given to defense attorneys or admitted into evidence.

The ruling sends the case back to the lower court for a new trial.

State’s Attorney Jack B. Johnson said he planned to appeal, but would retry Pantazes if the state loses the appeal.

Pantazes’ brother said the family was ``ecstatic″ that the case was overturned. ``I think he’s innocent. We’ve always thought that,″ Nick Pantazes said.