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Original Issue


After Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Brian Blades was convicted
of manslaughter by a Florida jury on Friday, June 14, he spent
the weekend as if in a trance. He got through his sister's
wedding on Saturday and spent Sunday, Father's Day, with his two
daughters. "When I woke up Monday morning, I thought, What am I
about to face?" Blades told SI last week. Upon arriving at the
Broward County courthouse for sentencing that day, says Blades,
he ducked into a small waiting room and read the Bible. He says
he recited the 23rd Psalm to himself as he entered the
courtroom. "Fifteen minutes later," Blades says, "there was a
blessing. The Lord promised to take care of me, and He did."

The Lord and Judge Susan Lebow. In a decision that left some
courtroom observers in shock, Lebow--maintaining that the
prosecution had failed to prove its case--ruled in favor of a
defense motion for a directed verdict and reversed the jury's
decision that Blades was guilty of culpable negligence in the
July 1995 shooting death of his cousin Charles Blades. Instead
of sentencing Blades to prison for up to 10 years, Lebow set him

However, Blades's legal troubles are not over. Prosecutor Peter
Magrino filed a notice of appeal the day after Lebow's decision,
which could result in the reinstatement of the guilty verdict
within 18 months. According to Magrino's research, there have
been five criminal cases in Florida in which a judge entered a
directed verdict of not guilty after a jury had found a
defendant guilty. In all five cases, he says, the guilty
verdicts were reinstated. Even if the appeal is denied, Blades
may still find himself back in the defendant's seat; in
September, Marchelle Henry, the former wife of Charles and the
mother of his teenage daughter, Crystal, filed a wrongful-death
suit against Blades. According to testimony by Wilbur Peterson,
a friend of Brian's who was in Brian's townhouse at the time of
the shooting, Charles and Brian were wrestling over a handgun
when the gun fired accidentally and killed Charles.

"We all had our own definitions of culpable negligence," said
Frederick Black, the jury foreman, after the trial. "He did do
something wrong. Yes, he did." But for now the 30-year-old wide
receiver, who in March got a three-year, $4.5 million contract
from the Seahawks, has a new life. He was in Los Angeles last
week to appear in Jerry McGuire, a film that features a
character based partly on his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Blades,
whom Seattle fullback Steve Smith calls a "playmaker and a team
leader," says he is hopeful and optimistic as he looks toward
the upcoming season. Considering what happened to him in the
courtroom, it's easy to understand why.


COLOR PHOTO: PORTRAIT: V.J. LOVERO; JOE RIMKUS JR./MIAMI HERALD Blades, still haunted by a family tragedy, faces more legal battles--and possibly prison. [Photograph of Brian Blades superimposed on photograph of Brian Blades being consoled by family members]