Attorneys representing a former death row inmate whose sentence was overturned asked a judge yesterday to keep out of next month's capital sentencing hearing the statements of a psychiatrist who previously testified that the convicted killer said "a voice" told him to kill his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter.
Dr. Gregory Fey, a psychiatrist hired by prosecutors to evaluate Jamaal K. Abeokuto, testified at Abeokuto's first sentencing hearing in November 2004 that the Baltimore man said the voice provided four reasons for him to kill Marciana Ringo. But Fey also told the judge presiding over that sentencing hearing that Abeokuto's claims of mental illness appeared to be exaggerated.
"Voices don't supply four motivations," Fey testified at the time.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger went on to sentence Abeokuto to death. But Maryland's highest court reversed that decision in February last year after four Court of Appeals judges voted, for two different reasons, to grant Abeokuto a new sentencing hearing.
That proceeding is scheduled next month, with a jury to decide whether to sentence Abeokuto to death, life in prison without a chance for parole or a life sentence.
Defense attorneys are seeking to keep Fey from repeating his testimony at the resentencing.
Amanda Bull, an assistant Harford County public defender, argued yesterday that Abeokuto's previous lawyer erred in not objecting to prosecutors' request that Bollinger order Abeokuto to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. She told the judge that her client's statements - including his explanation of why he slit Marciana's throat - were involuntary because he was compelled by court order to cooperate with the evaluation.
Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly countered that Abeokuto's discussion with the psychiatrist might have been the result of bad advice from his lawyer but that does not render the statements involuntary.
Defense lawyers have also asked the judge to preclude prosecutors from introducing any evidence regarding Abeokuto's psychiatric or psychological assessment, diagnosis or treatment.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh, who is presiding over the case, did not rule on the defense request - one of 28 motions he considered yesterday. Criminal defense attorney Warren A. Brown, who represented Abeokuto in 2004 at trial and sentencing, is scheduled to take the witness stand when the hearing resumes today.
Marciana's body was discovered in the woods near Joppatowne in Harford County on Dec. 12, 2002, nine days after she disappeared. Abeokuto, who often stayed with Marciana's family at their Baltimore home, was arrested on Christmas Eve 2002 after a standoff at an Alabama motel.
The murder case was moved to Baltimore County from Harford after Abeokuto requested a change of venue.