In an inventive, if ultimately unsuccessful, legal maneuver, a Severn man charged with beating his elderly parents to death said a judge hearing his case is an instrument of the devil and should therefore step down.

Mark Gregory Medley's claim that Judge Eugene M. Lerner is the Antichrist enlivened an otherwise routine pretrial hearing yesterday in county Circuit Court, where Medley's murder trial is scheduled to begin today.

Medley's attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Lerner should remove himself from the case because he had presided over a civil trial to determine whether Medley should receive his inheritance from his slain parents. Meanwhile, Medley was working up the judge's numerology.

During a lunch break, the 37-year-old defendant informed his lawyers that Lerner's number, as determined by a system used by followersof the prophet Nostradamus, is 666. At their client's insistence, the lawyers renewed their motion for Lerner to step down, citing Medley's claim of the judge's satanic side.

"This comes from my client,"Assistant Public Defender J. Michael Wachs, looking a bit sheepish, told the court. "This is something Mr. Medley believes very strongly in. He's a numerologist, and he also believes strongly in the occult."

With that, Wachs turned to an easel and assigned numbers 100 through 125 to the letters A through Z. Explaining this was the system used by Medley, Wachs added the numbers for the six letters of Lerner's name and announced the total was 666.

Therefore, Medley had concluded Lerner is "a high-level instrument of Satan or the devil, albeit, perhaps, unknowingly," Wachs told the judge.

Lerner then asked for an explanation on the significance of the number 666. "What if itwould have been 777?" he asked.

Medley spoke up. "Six six six is the number indicated in the so-called New Testament for the number ofthe beast," he said. "It is interpreted by the prophets in the New Testament as being (the sign of) an anointed one of the devil," he said.

Wachs then added, "He says he's looked through the entire New York City phone book and never found a name quite like this."

County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said he was "fascinated" by Medley's theory, but he questioned the legitimacy of the accused murderer's numerological system. Weathersbee was told the system is, in fact, used by followers of Nostradamus.

Yesterday's pretrial motion was not the first time Medley had taken his lawyers by surprise. Medley had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder --but in the middle of a hearing last November he changed his mind, setting the stage for a trial.

Medley is charged with murdering his parents, Joseph Caldwell Medley, 77, and Catherine Ann Medley, 75. Both were found beaten to death in June 1989 in the living room of their home in the 1400 block of Virginia Avenue. Medley was charged with their slayings within days, but was not arrested until a week later in Florida, after he walked into a Pensacola bus station and was spotted by a clerk who had seen his face on a wanted poster.

Medley hasbeen described as a loner who frequently fought with his parents. His criminal record includes a 1984 conviction for attempted armed robbery and a 1989 conviction for possession of PCP. Wachs said the defense case in the trial, expected to last at least a week, will include experts who will describe Medley's mental condition.

Medley, who attended classes at Yale in the early 1970s and graduated from the University of Maryland, was described yesterday by an FBI agent as soft-spoken and articulate.

Defense attorneys Wachs and Pamela North unsuccessfully argued yesterday that statements Medley made to Frederick McFaul, the FBI agent, should not be allowed in the trial. Wachs and North fared no better with Medley's motion that Lerner should remove himself from the trial because his number is 666.

In denying that motion, Lerner said: "The court finds it is not the devil or Satan and is ready to hear the case."

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