The testimony of a co-defendant in the murder of a Crownsville man was set for today after an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge ruled he was unfit to testify yesterday because he had been drinking.
Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth postponed the testimony of Henry Louis Stettler 4th after Stettler appeared in court with TC flushed face and slightly slurred speech. But he ruled Stettler hadn't disqualified himself as a witness, even though he had discussed the case over lunch with another witness.
Stettler, 27, was to testify in the first-degree murder trial of Michael Swartz, 25. Swartz and Ronald Lamar Scoates, 31, both of Annapolis, are charged with the fatal stabbing of 52-year-old Robert Austin Bell last July 9.
Stettler, also of Annapolis, already has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact.
Stettler admitted to the judge he had consumed three to four mixed drinks of cranberry juice and vodka during a two-hour luncheon recess.
An Evening Sun reporter over heard Stettler and Nancy Porter, Scoates' girlfriend, discussing what seemed to be the testimony she gave yesterday morning. The two had been seated in a bar near the State House, having an animated discussion.
As is customary, Rushworth had ordered all witnesses in the trial not to discuss their testimony with anyone until the trial is over.
The jury was sent out of the room when Stettler was asked about his conversation with Porter.
Under questioning by Swartz's attorney, Assistant Public Defender James McCarthy Jr., Stettler said Porter told him she had been questioned about specific facts but she could not recall specifics because she was drunk July 9.
Stettler said Porter also told him she couldn't remember whether Scoates told her he had killed someone or someone had been killed, a statement McCarthy had asked Porter to clarify during her testimony.
Rushworth asked Stettler if he had learned anything he didn't already know about the case from talking to Porter. Stettler said no. The judge also asked him if anything Porter said would influence his testimony. Again, Stettler said no.
McCarthy asked that Stettler be disqualified. But Rushworth said Stettler gained no new information and wasn't influenced by his conversation.
Jurors were called back into the courtroom and asked if they also ate lunch at the restaurant where Stettler ate his lunch. They all indicated they had not.