Insanity claim is part of matricide trial

August 24, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Prosecutors tried unsuccessfully yesterday to bar testimony about Jason Aaron DeLong's claims of insanity until after a jury decides whether he killed his mother and her boyfriend in her Westminster apartment last summer.

Saying that the issues raised by Mr. DeLong's claims of insanity are an inseparable part of his defense, Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold denied a pretrial prosecution motion to split the expected four-week trial into two parts.

Baltimore Assistant State's Attorneys Timothy J. Doory and Ara Crowe, who are prosecuting the case, argued that a jury should not have to weigh Mr. DeLong's insanity arguments at the same time it considers his guilt or innocence.

Mr. DeLong, 19, of Westminster is standing trial on charges that he killed his mother, Cathryn Brace Farrar, and her boyfriend, George William Wahl, July 29, 1993. He has pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible.

Through his lawyers and in court filings over the past year, Mr. DeLong says the killings were a form of self-defense brought on by a lifelong fear of his mother.

He has claimed that his mother abused him relentlessly -- physically and sexually -- for as long as he can remember, and that his upbringing made him insane.

That defense, prosecutors argued yesterday, is the same battered child syndrome defense used last year by California brothers Lyle and Eric Menendez, the sons of a wealthy couple who were accused of killing their parents. Their trial ended in deadlock; they are to be retried.

"Your Honor, that's the Menendez defense," Mr. Doory said yesterday. "Look at what they did in that case. They turned a criminal trial into a carnival. The Menendez defense has no place here, Your Honor, it has no place in logic and has no place in a court of law."

Luther C. West, Mr. DeLong's attorney, objected strenuously to Mr. Doory's calling his strategy the "Menendez defense." He argued that his client's insanity and self-defense claims are integral to his defense.

"By bringing up Menendez, the prosecutor is coloring the issue with color that doesn't have to be there," Mr. West said in pretrial arguments yesterday. "What he really wants to do is have this jury say this man is guilty of murder, so that it waters down the effectiveness of our defense." Mr. Doory argued that the insanity claims have a place, but at sentencing, not during the factual part of the trial. In his ruling from the bench, Judge Arnold disagreed.

The argument over whether to separate the trial into two parts took place before more than 150 potential jurors were called into Judge Arnold's courtroom. Jury selection was to continue today.

Ms. Farrar, 39, a nurse's aide, and Mr. Wahl, a brother-in-law of Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman, were found in Ms. Farrar's apartment several days after they were killed. Mr. Wahl was stabbed 40 times, while Ms. Farrar had 86 stab wounds.

Prosecutors portray the crime as a conspiracy to kill and rob the victims. Sara Elizabeth Citroni, Mr. DeLong's 18-year-old girlfriend, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder last month.

But Mr. West said he plans to show the jury Mr. DeLong's "volcano of anger" that erupted in Ms. Farrar's apartment.

He intends to present dozens of witnesses who will claim Mr. DeLong was abused and neglected by Ms. Farrar since he was an infant.

They will testify that Mr. DeLong was subjected to Satanism at the hands of his mother and grandmother.

And they will testify, Mr. West said yesterday, about the cycle of sexual abuse passed down from his grandparents to his mother.

"We will establish to everyone's satisfaction that Jason DeLong here is crazy," Mr. West said. "Jason killed . . . because of the explosion of anger, the volcano of anger, that he had in him all his life. That is what made him crazy."

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