Dancer's death was an accident, the defense says

September 23, 1992|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

A Baltimore County prosecutor said yesterday that he would prove Michael Cutlip, against whom the state is seeking the death penalty, used electric cords from a blow-dryer and a potpourri incense burner to strangle a 19-year-old exotic dancer.

The defendant's attorney, Steven D. Wyman, told the Circuit Court jury that the victim, Joie Lynne Wisdom, died accidentally during a session of sadomasochistic sex with Mr. Cutlip. Mr. Wyman promised the jury that the defense would delve into Miss Wisdom's sexual habits to prove that her death was an accident and not first-degree murder.

"You're going to hear about her sexual activity, of her growing fascination with bondage, of being tied up and beaten for purposes of sexual gratification," Mr. Wyman said.

In his opening statement, John Cox, an assistant state's attorney, acknowledged that Miss Wisdom's lifestyle would become an issue in the trial, saying some jurors may be "shocked by what you hear."

"The important thing for you to consider and to remember is that Joie Wisdom -- equal to you, equal to me, equal to anyone here -- was a human life, a human life that needed to be protected," Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Cutlip, 24, of the 200 block of Preston Court in Catonsville, is charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault and robbery.

Miss Wisdom, who was a dancer for Memories Lounge in the 4000 block of North Point Blvd., was found dead by her roommate, Erin M. Bostic, about 5 p.m. Dec. 3, 1990.

Yesterday, Miss Bostic, also an exotic dancer and one-time girlfriend of Mr. Cutlip, tearfully described finding her friend's body and discovering that photographs of her and Miss Wisdom were missing from their apartment. Police found those photographs in Mr. Cutlip's apartment, as well as a leather jacket that Miss Bostic said had been in their apartment the day before the murder.

Among witnesses that the state expects to call is a handwriting expert that prosecutors say will testify that Mr. Cutlip wrote a note found on the victim.

Mr. Wyman acknowledged that the state apparently can establish that his client was at the scene, but he said that a state autopsy was a "shoddy job" that ignored Miss Wisdom's sexual practices.

He said the defense will present its own expert to contest the autopsy and will call a U.S. Navy expert who will describe how the electric cords were knotted around the victim's neck. Mr. Cutlip also will testify, said Mr. Wyman.

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