DeLong jury begins deliberating

September 16, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

After listening to more than two dozen witnesses over nearly three weeks, the jury in Jason Aaron DeLong's first-degree murder trial began deliberating yesterday.

The panel of nine women and three men was sent to the jury room with two sharply different pictures of why Mr. DeLong stabbed his mother and her boyfriend last summer.

Since the trial began Aug. 23, the Carroll Circuit Court jury has known that Mr. DeLong, 19, of Westminster admitted to the killings of Cathryn Brace Farrar and George William Wahl in that city. He pleaded innocent and not criminally responsible because of insanity.

Prosecutors say the killings were a cold-blooded plan to rob Ms. Farrar of her meager savings and her car, while defense attorneys say Mr. DeLong was driven to kill by insanity fueled by years of sexual and physical abuse.

Last week, Mr. DeLong testified that he plunged a hunting knife into Cathryn Brace Farrar 86 times because of "uncontrollable rage."

"Just how can you run a kid crazy?" Luther C. West, Mr. DeLong's attorney, asked the jury during a nearly two-hour closing argument yesterday. "How can you drive a kid crazy? How can you, in all honesty, not say Jason is crazy?"

Craziness, according to Baltimore Assistant State's Attorney Timothy J. Doory, is merely an excuse for a heinous crime.

"Excuse is what is being sold to you here," said Mr. Doory, who is prosecuting the case because Mr. Wahl was a brother-in-law of Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman. "He's saying, RTC 'Please excuse me, I did it, but I'm not responsible.' But premeditation, so cold and so purposeful, wipes all that out."

Mr. DeLong and his girlfriend of one week, Sara Elizabeth Citroni, were arrested in South Florida several days after the July 29, 1993, slayings. Citroni, 18, pleaded guilty to the killings in July and is to be sentenced today before Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr.

Judge Beck has agreed to impose a prison term of no more than two consecutive life sentences. Citroni's attorneys -- who are to present about 15 witnesses at her sentencing hearing -- will argue for two concurrent life sentences.

During his nearly two hours of closing argument, Mr. West told the jury that Mr. DeLong was incapable of planning, unaware of )) long-range consequences and unable to stand up for himself. He told the jury that Mr. DeLong was incited to kill by Citroni, whom he had met a week earlier at the Cranberry Mall.

Mr. West said his client had three psychiatric disorders at the time of the killings, rendering him incapable of distinguishing the consequences of his actions.

He reminded the jury of Mr. DeLong's testimony, in which the defendant said he was hallucinating that Ms. Farrar was stabbing him as he was stabbing her. The attorney told the jurors that Ms. Farrar's abuse and neglect were what caused her son to kill.

"Instead of love, she's telling him the world out there is frightening, it's full of witches and demons and they're out to kill you," Mr. West said of Ms. Farrar. "If this doesn't blow out the fuses of this guy's brain, what will?"

Mr. Doory conceded that Mr. DeLong lacked a model upbringing.

"I'm not here telling you Jason is a well-adjusted young man," he said. "But under the law, he doesn't qualify for this defense. He's weird, he's strange, he's got a mental disorder, but that's not the end."

Mr. Doory told the jury that Mr. DeLong's defense was "preposterous."

"He mulled it over and over and over again in his mind," the prosecutor said of Mr. DeLong's decision to kill his mother. "He knew the difference between right and wrong."

Mr. Doory recalled how Mr. DeLong said, "She's my mom, I'll kill her," when Citroni talked of doing the killing herself.

Most of the trial has focused on Mr. DeLong's relationship with Ms. Farrar and has revealed little of why Mr. Wahl was also stabbed. Apparently, according to testimony, he was slain simply because he was there.

And Mr. Doory didn't want the jury to forget that.

He repeated what the defendant had said, "She's my mom, I'll do it," then turned to Mr. DeLong, who was in the same black shirt and pair of shorts he had worn every day since Aug. 23.

"She's your mom, and you must be held responsible. We cannot turn our backs on her." But he paused, and looked toward Mr. Wahl's sister and mother.

"We have one more question. What about Bill?"

The jury, which went home yesterday afternoon after about two hours of deliberations, was to reconvene this morning at 9.

When the jurors return with a verdict, they can find Mr. DeLong not guilty of killing and robbing the victims; they can find him guilty but not criminally responsible; or they can find him guilty and not criminally responsible for the crimes but guilty -- and responsible -- of conspiracy to commit those crimes.

Should the jury find him guilty and criminally responsible, Mr. DeLong could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

If he is found not criminally responsible, he will be sent to a state mental hospital for treatment until he is no longer is considered a danger to himself or others.

Two alternate jurors interviewed by defense attorneys yesterday were split in their verdicts. One said Mr. DeLong should be convicted of the crimes; the other said he should be found not criminally responsible.

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