Defense considering insanity plea for inmate charged with murder

Twice-convicted killer accused of strangling inmate on prison bus


News from around the Baltimore region

August 25, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Attorneys for Kevin G. Johns Jr., the twice-convicted killer accused of strangling a fellow inmate on a prison bus this year, said yesterday that they are considering an insanity plea for their client but need more time to have him evaluated by mental health professionals before making a decision.

During a hearing in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. gave defense lawyers 45 days to decide whether to file a plea of not criminally responsible in a case he called "too bizarre."

And while he said the facts of the case have left him questioning whether Johns' competency to stand trial should also be evaluated, he ultimately left it up to the 22-year-old inmate's lawyers to make that call.

Defense attorneys have been negotiating with prison officials to find a way to safely and properly have Johns examined by psychiatrists. He is heavily guarded and wears mitts on his hands whenever he is out of his prison cell, said William C. Brennan Jr., one of his lawyers. The mitts would make it difficult for Johns to perform some psychological tests, Brennan said.

Johns is accused of strangling Philip E. Parker Jr. on Feb. 2 during a 75-mile bus ride from Hagerstown to the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, also known as Supermax, in Baltimore.

The two were among more than 30 inmates on the bus as it traveled through Washington, Frederick, Howard and Baltimore counties and into the city. Parker's body was discovered when the bus stopped at Supermax.

Johns was charged with first-degree murder. Baltimore County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The hearing yesterday had been scheduled to allow lawyers to argue whether Johns was properly charged in Baltimore County - or whether the case should be moved to another jurisdiction along the bus route. Charges traditionally are brought where the crime occurred, and Johns' defense attorneys have argued in court papers that Parker's death could not have taken place in Baltimore County.

But the illness of one of Johns' defense attorneys forced a postponement of the hearing on that motion yesterday. Instead, the lawyers used the hearing to discuss the status of the case.

Johns is serving a 35-year sentence for killing his uncle and a sentence of life in prison without parole in the death of Armad Cloude, his 16-year-old cellmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center near Hagerstown.

Parker had testified the day before his death on Johns' behalf at a sentencing hearing in Hagerstown, telling the court that Johns needed psychiatric help. Johns also said during that hearing that he likely would kill again if he did not receive treatment.

Several correctional officers were fired or disciplined as a result of Parker's death.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.