Perkins doctors find defendant in killing ready for trial

Abeokuto accused in death of girlfriend's daughter

May 20, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Doctors at the state's forensic psychiatric hospital have determined that a Baltimore man accused of killing his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter is "ready for trial" and capable of assisting with his own defense, a judge overseeing the death penalty case said during a hearing yesterday.

But lawyers for Jamaal Abeokuto said they disputed the findings, and asked the judge to schedule a hearing to determine whether Abeokuto is competent to stand trial.

Amanda Bull, Harford County's deputy public defender, told the judge that the hospital's diagnosis of "latent malingering," which means feigning an illness or incapacity to avoid duty or work, is "very much in dispute." She asked the court to allow the defense team's psychiatrist to testify regarding Abeokuto's competence.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. agreed to schedule the hearing but forced defense attorneys to accelerate the schedule they had suggested, from late September to June 21.

"I'm not going into Christmas on this thing," Bollinger said.

The trial was moved from Harford County, where the girl's body was found, to Baltimore County after Abeokuto requested a change of venue. The trial was unexpectedly delayed April 8 after a court psychiatrist decided that the defendant might not be competent to stand trial.

Attorneys in the case, the judge and his staff already had spent two days lining up 52 of the 60 potential jurors needed to round out the pool from which 12 jurors and the alternates would have been chosen.

But Abeokuto's lawyers filed a motion saying their client was not mentally able to participate in his defense and needed a psychological evaluation. After court psychiatrist David L. Waltos decided that Abeokuto should undergo further examination at the state's Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, the judge said he had no choice but to recommend that the case be postponed indefinitely. The Perkins report remained sealed yesterday.

Federal authorities arrested Abeokuto, 24, at an Alabama hotel Dec. 24, 2002, three weeks after the disappearance of his girlfriend's daughter, Marciana Monyai Ringo. The child's body was found in a wooded area of Joppa nine days after she disappeared.

Roberto Vaddy, Marciana's great-grandfather, was in court yesterday, wearing a T-shirt with the girl's picture.

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