OCEAN CITY – Convicted killer Benjamin Sifrit, who along with his wife Erika, brutally murdered and dismembered a Virginia couple vacationing in Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend in 2002, this week renewed his bid for a new trial, alleging prosecutors used inconsistent theories of the crimes in the separate trials of he and his wife.
After exhausting an appeal process based on the claim his defense counsel was ineffective during his 2003 trial, Benjamin Sifrit has embarked on a different tack to get his conviction reversed and gain a new trial. In September, Sifrit filed in U.S. District Court a writ for habeas corpus against the Maryland Attorney General and the warden of the facility where he is serving a 30-year sentence for the crime essentially alleging he is being held illegally and should be given a new trial because prosecutors presented inconsistent theories against he and his wife in their separate trials in 2003.
In March, the state’s attorney general filed a response to Sifrit’s motion for a new trial, asserting prosecutors used the same basic evidence in the separate trials and the convictions should be upheld. This week, however, Benjamin Sifrit filed a formal answer, reasserting he should be granted a new trial because prosecutors tailored the evidence and selected testimony in the different trials in order to gain convictions for both he and his wife.
“In each trial, the government put forth evidence and argued that the defendant on trial was the shooter while the other defendant was present but had minimal involvement in the crime,” the petition for a new trial reads. “As such, the inconsistencies could not have been more central to the government’s case and violated the petitioner’s right to due process.”
Acccording to the petition, at each of the trials, the state presented evidence implicating the individual on trial while omitting evidence that implicated the defendant not on trial.
“The inconsistency was not a mere difference in interpretation of the same evidence,” the complaint reads. “The state selectively presented different evidence to support its theory in each case that the defendant then on trial was far more, if not solely responsible for the crimes. … Benjamin Sifrit claims he is being detained in state custody illegally and in support asserts that his right to due process was violated when the state presented materially inconsistent theories at his trial and at the trial of his wife, Erika Sifrit. At Mr. Sifrit’s trial, the state argued he killed the two victims and was in control of the events surrounding the victims’ deaths. At the subsequent trial of Erika Sifrit, the state argued Erika killed the two victims.”