Swartz Seeks Postponement Of Murder Trial

May 05, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

An attorney for Michael David Swartz has filed for a postponement inthe Annapolis man's murder trial, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Swartz, 25, whose parents' murder at the hands of his adoptive brother was the subject of a best-selling book, is charged with first-degree murder in the July 9, 1990, death of 52-year-old Robert Austin Bell. At a February court hearing, Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler said Bell was stabbed 45 times July 9 during a robbery atthe man's house in the 100 block of First Street, Crownsville.

During that February hearing, a 27-year-old Annapolis man pleadedguilty to being an accessory after the fact in Bell's slaying. HenryLouis Stettler IV -- the son of H. Louis Stettler III, chief deputy state treasurer -- faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Stettler is expected to testify for the prosecution in Swartz's trial and in the trial of another co-defendant, Ronald Lamar Scoates.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Scoates, who was on parole from a murder conviction in Florida when he was charged in Bell's slaying. Lawyers for Scoates last week asked a judge to move the trial from Anne Arundel County; state law grants a defendant in a capital murder case an automatic change of venue on request.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a prison term of life with no parole if Swartz is convicted of murder. The legal battles in the Swartz case heated up last week when defense attorney James D. McCarthy Jr. asked a judge to bar from the trial a confession Swartz gave to police.

The court file indicated that Swartz told police he, Scoates and Stettler had been drinking when they went to Bell's house with the intent to commit robbery -- and the knowledge that Bell kept a five-gallon jar of quarters in his home. He said Scoates put two knives in his waistband before they went to Bell's house. Once there, Stettler waited in the car while Swartz and Scoates went in the house, Swartz told police.

"At one point, (Scoates) turned to me and handed me a knifeand told me, 'Here, help me out,' " Swartz told police. "I lightly underhanded stabbed the guy in the kidney area at least twice. I backed off and Ronnie finished him off."

Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. last week withheld ruling on McCarthy's argument that the statement was illegally obtained because Swartz, while being arrested, hadasked for a lawyer.

McCarthy said he filed the request for a postponement Friday to more thoroughly investigate the case. He declined to elaborate.

McCarthy, an assistant public defender, said he was confident Thieme would grant the postponement. He said Swartz would probably appear in court Tuesday to waive his right to a trial within 180 days of his initial appearance.

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