Husband-killer Jane Marie Ostovitz fidgeted and shook while her lawyer described a marriage marred by alcohol, drugs, jealousy and years of psychological abuse.
Her husband threw her out of the house 25 to 30 times, usually tossing her clothes on the front lawn, attorney George Lantzas said at a hearing Friday in county Circuit Court. He cut her off from her friends and family. He'd command her to cook dinner or to run out at all hours for food, then throw it on the floor.
Lantzas said the 26-year-old Pasadena woman, who is 8 1/2 months pregnant with her dead husband's child, suffered from "battered-spouse syndrome" when she fatally shot Kenneth Edwin Ostovitz in the head last May 19. He asked a judge to sentence Ostovitz, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a sentence not to exceed 13 years, to a "lengthy" period of house arrest.
But Judge BruceC. Williams said the battered-spouse defense was misplaced in this case and sentenced Ostovitz to 10 years in prison.
A law enacted early last year allows evidence about the syndrome, a psychological condition developed by some women who feel trapped in abusive relationships, into Maryland courtrooms.
"Granted, she shows all the symptoms of battered-spouse syndrome, but that's not justification for what happened," said Williams, who noted that the woman had never sought help for her plight. "I think the use of the battered-spouse syndrome to mitigate this act is just misplaced.
In reaching his decision, Judge Williams echoed comments made by prosecutor Ronald M. Naditch, who said a lenient sentence might send the message that firing a pistol is not a completely unacceptable way to settle a marital disagreement.
Williams said: "When you put it all in perspective and get right down to it, what we're dealing with is the death of a person. Youhave to realize this is no way to solve a marriage problem."
Because Ostovitz is due to give birth in three weeks, Williams said she could remain free on $30,000 bond until March 1, when she will begin serving her sentence. Ostovitz, who was accompanied by her parents andother family members and friends at the hearing Friday, declined to comment on the sentence. After the hearing, Lantzas said he was disappointed.
"We were hoping a little more recognition would be given to the problems she had in her life," he said, adding that her failure to seek help was typical of a person suffering from battered-spousesyndrome.
During the hearing, the defense attorney described the husband's shortcomings as "a virtual panoply of a dysfunctional marriage."
Ostovitz said her husband of five years was as self-centeredas a 3-year-old and added: "He would constantly drink, gamble and scream at me. So why did I stay with him? Because of the faith of love.I believed I could reach the part of him that had so much anger."
When Ostovitz pleaded guilty in November, Naditch described the killing and surrounding events in an agreed statement of facts that was based largely on what she had told police who arrived after the shooting.
The day before the killing, an argument prompted Ostovitz to leave the couple's home in the 7200 block of Crown Road, Naditch said.She later returned, and the couple briefly reconciled before resuming their squabbling.
During that argument, the man tossed a .357-caliber Magnum handgun on a water bed and said, "Go ahead. Shoot me," Naditch said.
While her husband watched television from the bed, Ostovitz shot him once in the head, the prosecutor said. The man died of a single gunshot wound to the right temple, he said.
Ostovitz entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that the state has enough evidence to convict. Under the plea agreement, a handgun charge carrying a mandatory five-year, no-parole sentence was dropped.
Lantzas said the woman's family has not decided how to care for the baby after Ostovitz is imprisoned.
But a sister-in-law of the husband hinted that the slain man's side ofthe family might want a say in the matter. "We are concerned about the baby's future," the woman said, refusing to elaborate.
The woman, who would not give her name, complained that Ostovitz "had ample opportunity to get out of a marriage that was not working, but she made no attempt."
The woman said that the couple had separated for three months last summer but that Ostovitz had returned to her husband.
She said she did not agree with defense claims that Ostovitz is no danger to society: "I think if she's cornered she will come out fighting again. That's the problem."