Insanity-defense plan dropped in fatal poisoning

April 23, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Lawyers for an Ellicott City teen-ager accused of fatally poisoning a classmate last year by spiking his soda with cyanide have decided not to pursue an insanity defense.

Instead, they hope that a Howard County judge will allow them to present evidence at trial that Ryan T. Furlough, 19, was so emotionally and mentally impaired at the time that he could not have willfully planned Benjamin Edward Vassiliev's death - and therefore could not possibly be guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder, according to information presented in new court filings and during a court hearing yesterday.

The argument, if allowed by Howard Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr., could buttress any attempt to convince a judge or jury that Furlough should be convicted, at most, of lesser murder charges - and spared the possible life sentence that comes with a first-degree murder conviction, lawyers said.

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