Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trial date set for North Potomac teen accused of killing his father

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A North Potomac teen accused of stabbing his father to death in December has been scheduled for trial on Oct. 20.

David Coleman Winters, 18, will first undergo an examination at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center — a maximum security facility run through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — to determine whether he is competent to stand trial and whether he was criminally responsible for the crime he is charged with, according to court documents.

The trial date was set after a May 8 hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Winters is charged with first-degree murder, after the body of his father, architect Andrew Winters, was found with multiple stab wounds shortly before midnight on Dec. 25 near Muddy Branch Park in North Potomac.

According to documents filed in Circuit Court, Winters’ defense attorney, Myra Kovach, filed a plea of ‘‘not criminally responsible” on May 6.

A plea of not criminally responsible means that a defendant ‘‘lacks the substantial capacity to either appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct or conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law,” according to Seth Zucker, spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office.

In Maryland, those who plead not criminally responsible undergo a two-step trial process, Zucker said. One part is to determine whether the defendant is guilty of the crime and, if so, the second determines whether the defendant is criminally responsible.

Zucker would not comment on the Winters trial specifically.

The examination will also determine if Winters is competent to stand trial, meaning whether he is capable of participating in his defense and understanding the proceedings.

The trial was initially slated for May 20, but was postponed in order for Winters to receive the examination. It is expected to last 10 days.

Winters, a Marine who had recently completed basic training in North Carolina, was being treated for lacerations to his hands at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville when he told police that he and his father had been attacked by a group of men. Winters said he did not know the location or condition of his father.

Police suspected that the teen’s story was untrue because the amount of blood on his clothing did not match the cuts on his hands, police said.

Winters was indicted on first-degree murder charges in January.