Both defendants charged with murder in the death of a prominent Howard County businessman and blogger might argue that they are not criminally responsible for the stabbing because of their mental capabilities at the time of the crime, their lawyers said.
In a motion filed this week, the attorney for 20-year-old Jason A. Bulmer asked to delay her client's trial while she investigates a defense based on his mental state at the time of the stabbing of Dennis Lane, 58, who was found dead in his Ellicott City bedroom before dawn May 10.
Bulmer is accused along with Lane's 15-year-old daughter, Morgan Lane Arnold. An attorney for Arnold, who had been Bulmer's girlfriend, has asked to have her case moved to juvenile court. If she is tried as an adult, he said, he will also consider a "not criminally responsible" defense.
A "not criminally responsible" determination can come along with a guilty finding, but often allows a defendant to be committed for treatment at a psychiatric hospital instead of being sent to prison. Such patients are generally held until a court finds they are no longer dangerous, based on psychiatric evaluations.
Janette E. DeBoissiere, a public defender for Bulmer, wrote in her motion that the sides have discussed a plea deal, and that she needs more time to evaluate her client's mental capabilities before deciding whether to enter into an agreement.
A spokesman for the Howard County state's attorney's office would not elaborate on the offer, and DeBoissiere declined to comment.
Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for Howard County State's Attorney Dario J. Broccolino, confirmed that the trial date has been moved from this month to April 22.
Bulmer, who was a sophomore at Mount Hebron High School, is charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of murder conspiracy. He is charged with plotting with Arnold to kill Lane and Lane's fiancee, Denise Geiger, who was also in the house at the time but was not injured.
Arnold, who was a Mount Hebron freshman, has been charged with first-degree murder and two counts each of conspiracy and soliciting first-degree murder.
Howard County police and ambulance crews were called to Lane and Geiger's two-story brick home on Winding Ross Way about 4 a.m. May 10. Police said Bulmer had blood on his hands and clothes when he and Arnold were found sitting in an upstairs bedroom.
According to a police report, Bulmer told the police that he had killed Dennis Lane and that Arnold told him to do it. After waiving his right to remain silent, Bulmer told police that he and Arnold had been talking about the killing for weeks and were planning to "run off together," the report said.
The charges against the two carry a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Arnold's lawyer, Joseph Murtha, said a hearing is scheduled Nov. 18 on his request to have her case moved to juvenile court.
He said he knows of no "not criminally responsible" defense in juvenile court. The defendant would be found either delinquent or not delinquent.
To succeed in a "not criminally responsible" defense, a lawyer has to show that because of mental illness or developmental disability, the defendant either could not control his criminal behavior or did not have the ability to appreciate that the behavior was criminal.
It's not clear whether Bulmer's lawyer is considering the defense on the basis of mental illness or disability.
Either one is tough to prove, said David Jaros, an assistant professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
"It's not an easy thing to establish," said Jaros, a former New York City public defender. "Courts and juries are reluctant to find that people who do these scary things will be acquitted. … People have a visceral response to these things."
He quickly added, however, that a finding of "not criminally responsible" in this case would likely mean confinement in a psychiatric hospital for an indefinite period. He said a defense lawyer might pursue that defense because, depending on the hospital, the conditions could be better than a prison.
In a notorious Harford County case this summer, Alexander Kinyua pleaded guilty and was found not criminally responsible because of mental illness after he killed a family friend with an ax and then partially ate him in 2012. Kinyua was found to have been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and believed aliens were going to destroy the Earth.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun